SESYNC Researchers Develop Game That Challenges Users to "Survive the Century"


If you had the global platform to sway human opinion and behavior in the face of climate change—what would you do? What choices would you make when confronted with various political, environmental, and social scenarios? Would you invest in green technology and cut taxes? Would you be tempted to unleash your inner supervillain and spark WWIII? What if you blocked out the sun (just a little bit)? If you’ve never considered such questions before, an online game, developed by researchers from the National Socio-Environmental Synthesis Center (SESYNC), now gives you the opportunity to do so. 

The game, called Survive the Century, places you as the senior editor of the world’s most popular and trusted news organization—giving you the enviable power to set the news agenda and thereby shape global outlook and behavior. In the interactive story, presented in a choose-your-own-adventure style, users have the power to make choices that will determine how well—or how poorly—humanity adapts to climate change through the year 2100. It aims to help users imagine a range of possible climate futures and to remind us that the stories we tell ourselves and others have very real consequences for the future. 

Developed by SESYNC researchers Sam Beckbessinger, Simon Nicholson, and Christopher Trisos (a former SESYNC postdoc), Survive the Century grew out of a 2019 SESYNC workshop. Since launching in 2021, the story has already been read over 20,000 times and was featured in publications like New Scientist, Gizmodo, and Stories for Earth. Recently, Survive the Century was published in a book format, featuring full-color illustrations by Annika Brandow and news stories from the future written by leading sci-fi writers. Survive the Century is a work of “climate fiction or ‘cli-fi,’” informed by real science with consultation from more than 25 scientists, researchers, policy makers and subject-matter experts. 


The researchers explain that educators can use Survive the Century in classrooms and conference rooms around the world as a teaching tool to foster discussion and debate using creative forms of rhetoric about how climate politics happen in the real world. Users can also use the game and/or book with other climate modeling tools like En-ROADS to write a timeline of political and social choices that might lead to different simulated climate outcomes. 

Ultimately, the game hopes to restore the feeling of power over climate change that’s been lost in recent years and reinforce the idea that humans possess the power to shape the future. 

Learn more about the game here:

You can order the book from your local bookstore (anywhere in the world), or find it here.