Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Environmentalism in gaming: Hey, That's My Fish! and Antarctica


We've been told for years about global warming and the ice caps melting. Al Gore in 2012 stated: “The ice on land is melting at a faster rate and large ice sheets are moving toward the ocean more rapidly. As a result, sea levels are rising worldwide … as I look at this exquisite continent buried deep under the ice, it’s troubling to think about what will happen as this ice melts ever more rapidly.”. Here's a short and fun article on polar ice.

Now, to the games. Hey, That's My Fish! is an abstract from 2003 featuring cute penguins and melting ice floes. Antarctica is a recent eurogame of area influence. We'll look at the theme, mechanisms as representative of environmentalism, and their reflection of reality.

Hey, That's My Fish! has very little theme. Each player has a team of penguins, and are trying to gather as many fish as they can while the ice melts around them. Cute theme, it works as a game because it's so simple, and is technically a family game. When a penguin is moved off of a tile, the player controlling it collects that tile, so the board gains holes and is shrinking throughout the game. Penguins with no moves are stuck, so here's to being flightless and stuck on land. As far as the ice floes disappearing, sure, over summer, why not?

Antarctica, to it's credit, starts it's description with the words "In a distant time". Then it talks about global warming, sea levels rising, and windmills in the Antarctic. Each player has a team of scientists, ships, and resources, and is trying to get the most notoriety in the scientific community.  Do the mechanisms actually reflect any climate change agenda? No, but there is a rather interesting turn aspect: each turn the sun rotates one sector, and the ship first in that sector gets to move, and that player takes an action in that sector.

As to the reflection of reality in Antarctica, more scientists and more research and facilities(scoring mechanisms) do generally mean more notoriety. This, of course, is not science: it's a popularity contest. As to sea levels rising, water levels may rise in one part of a large body of water and not others; it's been observed by fishermen on large lakes. As to wind technology, there's a limit to how fast a windmill will turn and the windspeed it will handle. At a certain point, you're dealing with material and mechanical limits, I don't know what those would be, but polar winds are FAR beyond our current capabilities. And now for "climate change". We need to start with answering the question of the Earth's age. We have hard data from the British navy going back about 400 years.  Gas sample analysis from ice cores is a silly idea; gases won't distribute uniformly over the Earth. If one believe in a "young Earth", that is about 20k years, we have the negligible amount of 2% of history of hard data. If one believes the Earth is "billions and billions" of years old, the amount of hard data is laughably small, and assuming we know enough to make any predictions is ridiculous.

As to their quality as games, Hey That's My Fish! is a grand time, and I look forward to playing Antarctica: area majority games are some of my favorites.

When you play Social Justice, the world loses.

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