It’s easy to assume that video games are all about building big cities or running successful economies. There are, however, many games that offer quite the reverse. These games encourage players to consider the impact of their actions on the environment, as well as their interconnectedness to the world in which they live.
The games in this list take inspiration from Alenda Chang’s Playing Nature book. They offer a chance to consider play from an ecological perspective. As she quotes, “games of environmental responsibility animate our capacity to respond, to affect and be affected, to engage with others: other species, other people, and the otherness of our own planet.”
This might be how a game like Terra Nil makes the land itself a character in the experience. Or it can be how a game like Eco establishes the connection between your actions and the other aspects of the environment. Other games, like The Wandering Village underline how our location in the world impacts on us and others. One family told us about Final Fantasy 7 Remake's commentary on corporations and ecology. Then there are games of dire warning that let us step into a future where humanity is all but disconnected from the wider environment and hangs on just by a thread.
Other games let us experience our connection to the environment by adventuring in it. From getting lost in Shadow of the Colossus to finding our way in Journey, games underline the importance of the spaces in which we play. Experiences like Cloud Gardens or Viva Pinata extend this by using play to put us in charge of tending to the natural world. Games like Eastshade or The Long Dark invite us to linger in these places and gain an understanding that is crucial to our survival.
This list includes 31 games from the last 20 years, with 384 likes. They come from a range of different genres and play-styles and are all good games if you want to understand ecology.