Future Delta: A climate video game


Future Delta is a serious video game where players can see and experience alternative futures that reflect the decisions they make now. The game begins in 2100 with a charred and dystopic Earth that has passed a climate change tipping point… but this is a preventable future, and you are given a chance to re-write it.

overview of the idea

An idea is a thought or suggestion as to a possible course of action. For the RISE Ideas Competition, the Collaborative for Advanced Landscape Planning suggests the idea that the courses of our action on sea level rise must be seen, explored and understood to be believed. Systemic adaptation can be realized and based on robust design, the best available climate science and engineering, education, and explosive youth engagement.

As a planet, we spend 3 billion hours each week playing video games. Future Delta is a serious video game where players can see and experience alternative futures that reflect the decisions they make now. Game engines are interactive simulation technologies that allow players to connect their actions to consequences far in the future. This is a community-based educational video game that explores climate, adaptation and community planning futures in Delta, BC. We’re working with teachers and students from Delta high schools to co-develop a unique use of video gaming that encourages exploring and understanding local climate impacts in a low-lying, vulnerable part of Metro Vancouver. We are empowering local youth to intuitively grasp complex scientific concepts about the sources of our greenhouse gas emissions, the relationship between our carbon footprint and climate change, and how communities can thrive by adapting and mitigating. At the same time, players can enjoy the action, engagement and challenge of playing a video game that takes place in their own back yard.

how it works

This solution hinges on education. Guided by teachers, CALP researchers and independent designers working together, students are helping to create alternative future climate scenarios through inquiry learning around real issues of sea level rise and other coastal hazards. As part of the game’s narrative, players travel to different neighbourhoods that are based on real places. Future Delta gives players a chance to understand our climate vulnerabilities, and challenges us to be more resilient rather than feeling paralyzed by global inaction.

Gameplay incorporates devices that make visible the carbon footprint of they player’s surroundings, and them to track down the causes, impacts, and potential solutions to the impending climate catastrophe. By playing Future Delta, players will be able to roll forward the clock and see, for example, how raising dikes may be used to keep out rising sees, and asses the implications of this strategy on the ground for themselves. At the same time they can explore alternatives to diking such as habitat-rich barrier islands, low-impact floating communities, or migration out of the floodplain. Video games also allow players to roll back the clock to take other trajectories, new courses of action, more adaptive solutions. This immersive and interactive tool can be integrated into high school curricula, and with the support of the Delta Schools District, we are working with interested teachers and students to design the game collaboratively.


Future Delta: A climate video game

A video explaining more about the idea of Future Delta.

Future Delta: Introduction

A preview of the Future Delta video game introduction!

Future Delta: Outro

A cinematic from the Future Delta video game!

How communities will adapt and thrive

A wide range of futures and adaptation strategies are demonstrated in different parts of Delta throughout the game. For example:

Boundary bay transforms itself into “The Bay Area”, an exclusive, amphibious neighbourhood. There, floating buildings are resilient to periodic inundation and rising seas while running on renewable energy such as tidal and wind. Over the decades, this design prevents storm damage, property losses, insurance claims and civil lawsuits. Although expensive at first, it inevitably saves taxpayers billions of dollars, which is instead available for other sustainable development programs and incentives. Dredging provides some extra room for the Fraser River during spring flooding, and this material is used to build up protective beaches and islands for floating home communities in The Bay Area.

In other parts of the game, the climate refugees that arrive in Delta over the years helped transform its flooded agriculture land reserves into aquaculture production. Plantations of salt-tolerant plants such as switchgrass and halophytes gave rise to a biomass and vegetable oil that replaced diesel as a transportation fuel.

Meanwhile, as population growth in the floodplain becomes limited, and some people reject the hustle and bustle of North Delta, Ladner becomes a hold-out for those who cherished a quite heritage neighbourhood. Remaining residents were unwilling to raise a 5-metre diking system around so they simply built-up their homes instead: creating blocks of raised dwellings separated by canals and open water. Building “The Venice of The West” turned out to be an expensive undertaking; forcing homeowners to build raised duplex and triplex mansions to share the costs of the architectural retrofits.

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Stephen A. Jarislowsky

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