We need to talk about Fox News
Your latest digest of video game and climate change news from the past two weeks.
Welcome to the latest edition of Play Anthropocene!
Today is Tuesday, February 7th, and we’re covering the latest developments in the world of video games and climate change. Happy reading!
Deliver Us Mars launches its counter narrative against the Colonize Mars hive mind
The argument for space colonisation as a solution to the climate crisis has always been a dangerous one. But, with techno-utopianism on the rise as a dominant ideology of the 21st century, it's also one that continues to take up a worrying amount of real estate in the public imagination.
To be fair, it's easy to understand why. The excitement and promise offered by the prospect of taking to the stars offers a comforting alternative to the difficult circumstances we currently face on Earth, especially when so many public figures (who should know better) are throwing their weight behind it.
But it's not just misguided to place our trust in what essentially boils down to the glorified vanity projects of narcissist billionaires; it betrays our very nature as a species. Even if it were possible, the idea that we should just relocate to a new homeworld after trashing the one that formed us is deeply irresponsible to say the least, and would reaffirm the dangerous assumption that humankind can treat its environment like one giant wastepaper basket.
This is the subtext that runs underneath the story of Deliver Us Mars, KeokeN Interactive's sequel to 2018's Deliver Us the Moon, as Frontier Foundry's Sam Roberts elaborates in a post on Xbox Wire:
"Space travel and a life beyond our planet remains an exciting, aspirational prospect. But the simplest solution for humanity’s future, by far, is solving the problems we already have on Earth – rather than solely chasing a dream of life elsewhere while conditions here become increasingly unliveable."
Set in a future where Earth has been ravaged by climate change, players will travel to Mars' sole human colony, Outward, in the hopes of securing a bio-printer, which could hold the key to restoring life back on our home planet.
It's here, playing as astronaut Kathy, where Deliver Us Mars will explore this ongoing tension between futurism and conservationism: “The push and pull between colonists with ambitions to start a new life on Mars, and those remaining on Earth who are trying to salvage their home."
I've yet to find the opportunity to play Deliver Us Mars for myself, but it's nonetheless exciting to see a game grapple with this particular climate conversation that continues to play out in our contemporary discourse. In any case, you can enjoy the game for yourself on PlayStation, Xbox, and PC right now.
Fox News throws temper tantrum over common sense Xbox initiative
In the last edition of Play Anthropocene, we looked at Xbox’s latest update for the Series S/X, which smartened up the hardware’s energy-saving features, leading Microsoft to proclaim them as the first “carbon aware” console on the market.
I’m going to have to return to this story for a moment, if you’ll allow me, as there’s been a… regrettable development.
Fox News eventually picked up the news and, as you might expect from the Murdoch empire’s favourite child, twisted the story so far out of proportion that it threatened to break the spacetime continuum.
While you can watch the entire segment for yourself if you like, I think the following excerpted transcript between its two talking heads summarises the general tone of the conversation pretty well:
“They’re trying to recruit your kids into climate politics at an earlier age [to] make them climate conscious!”
“You’re right, they’re going after the children!”
Given the size of the Fox News platform, it wasn’t long before other outlets across the right-wing media circuit ran the story, until even politicians like Ted Cruz began weighing in on Twitter, all spouting the same nonsense about the sinister, socialist intentions behind - [double checks notes] - a more energy-efficient gaming console.
As frustrating as it is to watch this play out, it does demonstrate an ongoing pattern amongst right-wing conversations around the environment, which tends to frame climate action as a partisan issue, instead of a humanitarian one.
In this case, by tapping into its self-perpetuated fear-mongering around “wokeness”, Fox News effectively uses Xbox’s standard practice of energy optimisation as bait to feed its culture wars outrage machine, leaving little room for informative coverage of what the update is actually doing, and why.
The irony, of course, is that a) Xbox’s update isn’t even designed to raise awareness, but to simply help Microsoft and its customers reduce their carbon footprint; and b) it’s unclear what exactly Fox News finds so scary about making kids “climate conscious” in the first place.
Not to burst your bubble, Fox, but children and young people are already the most climate-conscious generation on the planet, and thank goodness, too, as their voices and actions have already been a crucial force for bringing about positive environmental change around the world.
Anyway, it’s exhausting to give any more attention to this than it’s worth, so let’s promptly move on.
The Mayor of London makes a Minecraft cameo for a sustainable city planning challenge
Sadiq Khan and the Greater London Authority have teamed up with Minecraft to encourage young people across the city to re-imagine what a more sustainable Croydon might look like in the near future.
The Design Future London Schools Challenge lets applicants access a build of Minecraft set within the Croydon borough of London, before tasking them with reinventing the space to make it a “greener, safer, and more prosperous place for everyone".
Sadiq Khan will even appear as an NPC in the game-world, guiding players through the environment and offering key information about the competition, marking the first inclusion of a political figure in a mainstream video game that I can recall since those stomach-churning Oliver North and David Petraeus cameos in Call of Duty: Black Ops II.
This collaboration might seem unexpected at first, but both Minecraft and Sadiq Khan have reputable track records as champions for the environment in their own spheres of influence. Minecraft has proven itself a valuable tool for teaching younger generations about climate change, and its Education platform has seen developer Mojang team up with the likes of the BBC and the United Nations in order to raise awareness about the crisis through its marriage of creation and play.
Sadiq Khan, meanwhile, is spearheading the Greater London Authority’s net zero strategy for the city, and has even written a book about the climate crisis, Breathe, due out later this year. There was, of course, the whole Garden Bridge debacle, but the less said about that, the better.
As for London itself, the city has a critical role to play in the climate emergency, not just in the responsibility it holds to lead by example in sustainable urban development, but in its particular vulnerability to both flooding from the River Thames and the extreme heatwaves that climate change is already causing.
The urban heat island effect means that cities are uniquely exposed to dangerously high temperatures, and so for London - a city that has spent centuries building homes to maintain heat, rather than release it - the imperative for the kind of major change that this challenge hopes to inspire is urgent.
Applications for the Design Future London Schools Challenge are open to any student in London aged 11 - 24, with the winning ideas set to be celebrated at an in-person event in the Summer.
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