CHEER Hub Member Awarded Funds to host a video “game jam” in early 2024 and elevate women in ocean, climate, and computer science fields.

Dr. A.R. Siders, a member of the CHEER hub and a core faculty member at the University of Delaware’s Disaster Research Center, has been awarded a supplementary grant from the National Science Foundation to support an oceans video “game jam” project that will connect the CHEER Hub to the United Nations Ocean Decade and Playing for the Planet initiative.

The goal of this project is twofold: to bring visibility to women in ocean, climate, and computer sciences and to build a team that will host a game jam focused on oceans, climate, and women.

Every 10 years, the United Nations calls the world’s attention to a certain environmental issue and challenges people to join a shared, global effort to address that challenge. The UN’s Playing for the Planet initiative is a part of this endeavor. In addition to supporting sustainability in the video game industry, this alliance challenges the scientific community to use creativity and technology to join this effort.

“This initiative is about promoting sustainability, but it’s also about the games themselves,” said Siders. “What are they putting out? How do they think about providing educationally and environmentally aware content? The game jam is an awesome opportunity to bring all these pieces together.”

Many video games have climate themes, even if they are not explicit. It makes sense then to leverage the potential and reach of such technology. With more than 3 billion gamers, a game jam – a time-limited video game development competition – is an effective way to do just that.

In this case, Siders’ message doesn’t stop at elevating the role of oceans in climate change policy. This game jam will also promote conversations about the role of women in the video game industry.

“The video game industry has also been struggling with women and women in leadership and as developers,” Siders said. “So this is also a big opportunity for awareness at the nexus of environmental issues and women and climate.”

Two female-identifying students from the CHEER hub will be involved in the game jam, which will be held at the University of Delaware in the spring of 2024. In the meantime, Siders is building upon her previous research and collaborating with fellow UD faculty to organize the event.

The colleagues represent a wide variety of departments, including e-sports management, video game design, ecocriticism, and oceanography and marine science. Some of them are already working with the video game industry on issues of gender representation.

“Video games and climate is something I’ve been thinking about for a little while now, but it’s been hard to build a community around,” said Siders. “It’s a really great opportunity to bring a bunch of people together from totally different perspectives who are all excited about the connections across these climate themes. I think and hope that excitement will last long beyond this game jam.”

To learn more about UD’s first annual national climate change game jam or how to become involved in the event, visit the event’s website or email Dr. Siders.