Can (eco)gaming save the world? Engaging the next generation in sustainability through play

“If it’s not fun, it’s not sustainable”

There’s a much-loved phrase that’s often heard in the ecovillage movement: “If it’s not fun, it’s not sustainable”. And whoever it was who first coined it, they’d be pleased to see how developments at GEN are taking the maxim to heart.

Last month, partners from ecovillages, universities and NGOs from across Europe and beyond joined forces in Sekem, Egypt, to further work on EcoGamer, a project partnership funded through the EU’s Erasmus+ scheme that aims to engage young people in ecovillage lifestyles through collaborative live-action gaming.

GEN and GEN Europe act as bridges from the project to the world of ecovillages, as well as years of ecovillage research and education. Damanhur ecovillage (Italy) - experts in play and gaming – bring their decades of experience with highly elaborated games for self-development and conflict resolution, while the Faculty of Sciences of the University of Lisbon have been hard at work developing indicators for a new Ecovillage Impact Assessment. Sekem’s expertise in social enterprise will weave into the game, which will playfully ignite, transform and activate young changemakers to engage in meaningful pathways towards regenerative communities and livelihoods.

The game’s universe developed rapidly during the five-day encounter in Egypt. How will teams tackle the challenges that beset their world? There will be many surprises along the way, but participants can expect teamwork, self-reflection, conflict-resolution and a true journey of self discovery in a decisive battle for the fate of Oasia – all of which will take place in a live-action ecovillage setting.

Woven into the project is the evolution of a long awaited tool: the ecovillage impact assessment, which promises to provide an in-depth look into the attitudes and behaviours of ecovillages and communities of all kinds, and find out what the individual and cumulative impact of such communities are. This will provide vital data to shape our outreach and help us become better advocates for sustainable settlements. As gamification becomes an ever-more important means of engagement, tools for gamifying the assessment were also explored during the meeting.

The week was an intense experience of co-creation, but also left time to explore the extraordinary grounds of Sekem. Founded in 1977 in the barren land to the north-east of Cario by Dr Ibrahim Abouleish, for over forty years biodynamic principles and the ‘economy of love’ have led to a flourishing – not only of the desert, now rich with trees, crops, and animal and plant life – but of social, cultural and economic life in the surrounding area thanks to its subsidised schools, technical college that breaks the gender mould with girls learning technical careers, and jobs for 2000 workers in its various social enterprises.

For a first look at the game and assessment, join the Gamer team at the European Ecovillage Conference 2019 in La Comune de Bagnaia, Tuscany, Italy for a teaser - and stay tuned for more news on the first trainings and gaming opportunities for youth.