The Game's The Thing Wherein I'll Catch The Conscience Of My Kin ....

I'll have grounds
More relative than this—the play's the thing
Wherein I'll catch the conscience of the King.

Hamlet Act 2, scene 2, 603–605

Crafting “The Climate Trail” has been a great experience. There’s the challenge of learning a new development system (Ren’Py) and programming language (Python), the design challenge of making a playable and challenging game, and the fun of reconnecting with people I’ve worked with over the years.

Modeling a post climate apocalyptic journey, figuring out a realistic scenario without using the tired survivalist tropes we’ve seen in film and video games (sorry, no shooting in this one), is equally challenging.

But there’s a dark side to this. As I work on the mundane stuff (Example: how do we add dysentery to the game in a realistic way?) I’m also paying a lot more attention to the science of Climate Change and frankly it can be downright depressing. Here’s just a sampling:

'Unprecedented': more than 100 Arctic wildfires burn in worst ever season. Huge blazes in Greenland, Siberia and Alaska are producing plumes of smoke that can be seen from space

Today's oceans are absorbing carbon about an order of magnitude faster than the worst case in the geologic record -- the end-Permian extinction.” In that event, at least 90 percent of all life on earth died.

“Once the oxygen is gone, the oceans become the realm of bacteria that obtain their oxygen from sulfur oxide compounds. These bacteria strip oxygen from the compounds and produce hydrogen sulfide. Hydrogen sulfide kills aerobic organisms."

(note: aerobic means literally everything on land including plants, bacteria, and also us.)

“The Greenland Ice Sheet is in the throes of one of its greatest melting events ever recorded”

I’m not saying all the worst case scenarios will happen (in the case of the anaerobic ocean, it takes a while), but even if there was a 10% chance of any of this one would ask themselves … “would I get on a airliner that had a 10% chance of crashing?”

So it motivates me to make the game play and most importantly the visual novel aspects of this game as awesome as I can craft them. The character interactions have to make you care about the people you’re traveling with, the ones you encounter and the stories they have to tell. I’m applying what worked in a few moments in “The Return to Zork,” the waif as an example.

If a party member dies I want to player to think about their future and the future of our children. Trite as that sounds, it is what motivates me.

Let’s hope that I can catch the conscience of my kin, the deniers and doubters, to really take Climate Change seriously.

William Volk