Eco Games
Screenshot of the computer game "ECO"; A deer looks at a city that will soon be hit by a meteorite.
A special exhibition within 'zkm_gameplay. the next level'
Wed, July 28, 2021 – Sun, April 03, 2022

Can computer games help to stop global warming? What influence do games have on our behavior towards the environment? And how many resources do we consume while playing? These and other questions are addressed by »Eco Games«, an exhibition as part of »zkm_gameplay. the next level«. Discover games that explore the relationship between serious games and the environment.

In 1972, Atari brought the arcade version of the computer game »PONG« to the bars and shopping malls of the USA. In the same year, the Club of Rome published its widely acclaimed study »The Limits to Growth«, thus laying the foundation for the modern ecology movement.

Albeit with some delay, the social importance of ecological topics was eventually recognized in the games industry as well: With »Balance of the Planet« (1990) and »EcoQuest: The Search for Cetus« (1992), two titles appeared in the early 1990s that explicitly referred to the impending destruction of our planet. However, games on these issues – so-called »Eco Games« – continue to represent a niche in the constantly growing computer game production.

Play it – before you (have to) live it

»Eco Games« are set in environments where the destruction or preservation of nature is dealt with. Players must prove their ability to act in a sustainable way. Game developers hope that the immersive and interactive character of the medium computer game will raise players' awareness of ecological issues and ultimately bring about long-term changes in behavior.

With the genre of dystopian and posthuman games, scenarios can be experienced that show the effects of human-made catastrophes and address their prevention. In the spirit of »Play it – before you (have to) live it.«

The exhibition, curated by Dominik Rinnhofer, professor of game design at the Macromedia University of Applied Sciences, Stuttgart, includes seven games dating from 1990 to 2020. A series of online conversations with experts from the fields of cultural theory, psychology and game development provide in-depth insights into the questions raised in the exhibition.

Games of the Exhibition

Chris Crawford – 1990

This simulation game is about manipulating various parameters of politics and finance to keep our planet alive.

Sierra On-Line / Gano Haine, Jane Jensen – 1992

»EcoQuest: The Search for Cetus« is one of the first digital games to focus on nature conservation.

Paolo Pedercini – 2011

In four mini-games, individual production aspects of a smartphone were critically reflected.

Causa Creations / Tilmann Hars – 2014

Where do our electrical appliances end up when we throw them away? »Burn the Boards« gets to the bottom of it.

USC Game Innovation Lab / Tracy Fullerton – 2017

The game makes Henry David Thoreau's experiences as a hermit in nature tangible. Players can immerse themselves in his world (of thought) and experience his philosophy.

Strange Loop Games / John Krajewski – 2018

Use the available natural resources to create a civilisation that is able to stop the meteorite without destroying the planet first.

ustwo games – 2020

Join eleven-year-old Alba on her rambles across a beautiful island and start a movement with your friends to protect the environment!


Project Management: Jenny Starick
Curatorial Assistance: Laura Schmidt

Organization / Institution

Accompanying program