The Green Game Jam – guidance from the 2022 press panel for future participants

Published on 28/06/2022

Sony and Guerilla's Horizon: Forbidden West<br>
Sony and Guerilla's Horizon: Forbidden West

The Green Game Jam took place for the third time in 2022. We judged dozens of companies submitting projects for a range of genres and platforms on the themes of foods and forests, with each entry aiming to make a positive real-world impact on the environment.

While we were only allowed to select one winner for the awards, we noticed that the best submissions tended to share some common characteristics that helped them stand out.

As a result, we’ve pulled together a quick guide celebrating some of the best practices we saw from the Green Game Jam this year. Our hope is that this will both give guidance to companies who submitted this year and who want to think about plans for next year or for businesses who might be considering entering the jam for the first time in 2023.

We believe this will hopefully both support the already high-quality entries that we’ve seen so far and further the reach of the jam in the industry – ultimately leading to more people across the world playing activations, learning about the climate crisis, and changing behaviors to help avert it.

Every company that has participated in the Green Games Jam so far has helped play a part in averting the climate crisis. We believe the industry as a whole can support this further and we hope that this piece will shape the innovative ideas that inspire change amongst millions of players across the world.

George Osborn, Robert Purchese, and Shay Thompson

Hay Day uses recipe books to frame messages around food-related issues.<br>
Hay Day uses recipe books to frame messages around food-related issues.

Tip 1) Engage deeply with the theme

The theme for the Green Game Jam is kept broad to allow as many businesses as possible to participate. The outstanding entries in the game jam, however, took the theme and ran with it.

Often, this was achieved by putting a lot of effort into the game itself. Ubisoft Annecy's Rider’s Republic, the winner of the press panel award, had an outstanding vision for its forest-themed activation, teaching players about ways to avoid the devastating impact of forest fires against the backdrop of a fiery red sky emblazoned over Yosemite Park.

Another effective way to show engagement was to tackle the theme at a deeper level. Supercell’s Hay Day pitch turned the theme of food into a friendly nudge about the sustainability of the food chain, showing players that making small changes - such as eating seasonal food local to their area - can help the environment.

We also were impressed by games that used partnerships effectively. While a number of companies committed to planting trees to support their take on the forest theme, Sony’s pitch to plant ‘Aloy Forests’ in partnership with chosen organizations across the world for the launch of Horizon: Forbidden West went further.

Finally, one of the stand out parts of every good pitch was that they showed their engagement with the theme in their presentation deck. The companies that went beyond using the template helped their proposal shine and we recommend putting time in on the deck to really stand out.

Tip 2)  Think innovatively with in-game activities

Every activity launched in the Green Game Jam is a welcome boost to efforts to teach players around the world about climate change. But while sales of in-game items, skins, and the use of messaging or advertising tools to engage players were all good proposals, developers who took those ideas further reaped the rewards in the judging process.  

Partly, this is down to how strongly the theme is executed within the in-game creative. Two Ubisoft entries – Riders Republic and Singapore’s Skull & Bones, which will teach players about the dangers of overfishing by tracking sharks and battling hunters  – were both highly ambitious in terms of creative execution and stood out because of it.

However, we were also impressed by games that used existing mechanics to great effect. Creative Assembly’s proposal for Total War: Warhammer III, for example, pitched running a forest-themed competitive tournament for its top players alongside including in-game banners and items to promote the theme, adding an interesting broadcast experience to the game.

Niantic’s pitch for Pokemon Go effectively showed how to tie game mechanics to climate outcomes. It promised to plant a tree for every player who walked 5km in-game during the period the campaign ran for its forest theme. This seamlessly joined together the reason why people play the game to the end goal of planting trees, naturally encouraging people to take part.

But arguably the standout example of innovation was Tilting Point’s idea for Terragenesis. It added a new permanent leaderboard to its game, celebrating the player who helps plant the most trees every week. The decision to make this as important to players permanently as everything else taking place in the game is a big commitment and we recognized the ambition.

Ultimately, no game is the same and no single route can be replicated for future success in the jam. But companies who showed an understanding of their game and the unique contribution it could make to the theme within the framework of the title tended to stand above the others.

Tip 3) Be reflective with your characters and intellectual property

Video games and the characters that make up many of them are globally valued and recognized. This means that their use within pitches for the Green Game Jam provided interesting opportunities for the proposals that took advantage of them.

Sony’s Horizon: Forbidden West activation did this effectively. It was one of the only Triple-A franchises to provide a submission to the jam, and one of the few to directly use the recognizable hero from the game in the proposal, which instantly made it stand out.

However, there were other instances where intellectual property was used thoughtfully. Kolibri’s entry for Idle Miner stood out to the judges because it told players about the environmental risks and dangers of real-world mining. This took some bravery to do, given the subject matter of the game, and we thought that reflectiveness was worth highlighting.

There was also a range of instances of developers thinking carefully about the most appropriate way to creatively present their campaigns to their players, such as the use of recipe books within Hay Day’s farm-related framing to further its messages around food.

We do feel that there is, however, room for developers to think further on this. In comparison to the thought that went into mechanics or themes, we think submissions next year could really shine by doing interesting things with our world-leading characters, games, and brands.

Ubisoft's Riders Republic - Winner of Media's Choice<br>
Ubisoft's Riders Republic - Winner of Media's Choice

4) Consider fair and comparable ways to achieve real-world impact

Finally, a consideration in regards to real-world impact. We saw developers commit to big numbers in terms of audience reached, trees planted, donations made and other metrics that will make a meaningful positive impact on the environment. This is great and we should celebrate.

But we’re also aware that popular, commercially, or critically successful games may not have enormous audiences. We know that not every business has the money or the internal structures to match fund player donations. We understand that some development studios will be so small that even participating in the jam will be a large endeavor.

So when it comes to talking about real-world impact, we don’t expect to see huge numbers on every proposal. Instead, we wanted to see that companies had thought about real-world impact in a meaningful way. 

We agreed consistently that a thoughtfully executed partnership, which delivered a smaller result in numerical terms but potentially wider value through awareness from the press or social media, was judged more positively for real-world impact.

That’s why we want to encourage developers to think about real-world impact in a broader sense so that they don’t feel it has to be a numbers game alone.

For example, none of the proposals talked about working with partners in education – such as schools and colleges – and few talked about working within local communities. Activities like this have tangible, deep, and noticeable impacts, showing a couple of ways for smaller businesses to break through.  

- Judges Shay Thompson (Journalist), George Osborn (Ukie), and Robert Purchese (Journalist)