Last week at the Getting To Zero (carbon) conference I played an excellent group game that showed how with a little creativity, learning how to fight climate change can be really fun.

The game, created by Miya Kitahara and Emily Alvarez at Oakland-based, let  players role-play the development of a small city over three decades, and see the impact of their decisions on climate emissions, jobs, and housing.


Each group had six or seven players, each of whom got a role: city council, city planner, commercial developer, retail developer, etc.  The group together had to decide how to (re) develop the city’s downtown: tearing down or upgrading existing buildings and parking lots, building new developments, and adding parks.

Each group also got ‘political capital’ points, which could be spent on policies like mandating efficiency (e.g. electrification) upgrades to existing buildings or lowering embodied carbon levels for new buildings. After each round (‘decade’) each team got new political capital points based on a roll of a dice.

My team lost, and it was my fault because I was the city council person. Although we more than met the requirements for creating new jobs and housing, we had the highest CO2 emissions of all four teams competing.

We made the wrong policy call – spending our political capital mandating existing building efficiency rather than new building standards, just before embarking on a huge building spree. The other three teams got it right out of the gate, so we never had a chance (not surprisingly, the winning team also had the most women on it and ours had the fewest).

This game was great because it required a lot of fast learning, collaboration, and hands-on action – you could really have fun with it. The physical board and pieces were attractive and colorful, and linked to real-time data dashboards projected onto the walls for all four teams.

You too can build a fun learning game like this using only Legos, InDesign and a color printer, and Google Sheets. Or you could contact the folks at (miya@)… they may be willing to share their template.

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