Climate Courthouse Game: August Update

By Lauren McManamon & Kyle Alexander Thompson

Anticiplay
4 min readAug 3, 2022

In late 2021, the Anticiplay team set out on a journey to make a climate courthouse game inspired by real life climate court cases against powerful polluters. This blog is the first in a series of dev blogs — describing the process and progress of making the climate courthouse game.

The Trilogy of Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney by Capcom

You may recall that Joost Vervoort sparked the idea of using a Phoenix Wright-style game focused on lawsuits against the powerful to support real world climate court cases late last year. Well, we’re pleased to report that over the first half of 2022, an idea has since flourished into a budding project!

We’ve spent the last few months speaking with very impassioned people who work on climate court cases to understand the highs, the lows, what keeps them going, and how they go head-to-head with large, well-funded corporations. We learnt a lot about the legal side, but also a tremendous amount about the court of public opinion, and what they do to counter the greenwashing and media spin that Shell and other climate obstructionist organizations dispense to the public at large.

The vision for a game solely focused on the courtroom quickly expanded to a full social and legal campaign after speaking with them. It was a good reminder that courts don’t exist in a vacuum of laws and regulations, but sit nestled within the social fabric of society. In fact, in one case, the judge cited talking points from a social media campaign launched by the group we spoke to. The public discourse had clearly crossed over into the courtroom. It was a nice reminder that the actions we take as citizens of the world have a meaningful impact on these institutions — that keeping the conversation about climate crises alive and present can push change.

Aviary Attorney by Sketchy Logic

All we needed to do next was take all these experiences and transform them into mechanics and stories for a game. We wanted people to feel the frustration of dealing with powerful, well-resourced corporations and their underhanded tactics, and the joy of taking that power away from them through a Phoenix Wright-style investigation. We also wanted players to strategize their campaign, build cases of evidence against corporations, and pull off attention-grabbing protests and rallies — all of which would come down to a nail-biting courtroom scene.

The game cycle became clear, aligning with similar legal games with a twist. Here, the actors aren’t impartial investigators assessing facts to determine truth. These people have an invested purpose — as we all should, because we all know the truth: science shows we needed to take action yesterday. But shifting the social narrative against companies like Shell? That’s where the real work takes place. Companies have such a massive budget to spend on greenwashing campaigns, positive news coverage, and pro-oil advocacy — it’s so much obstruction that even though the facts are unequivocally on our side, change is extremely challenging to achieve. It’s about taking those facts and bringing them into the global conversation on corporate responsibility and accountability so change becomes possible.

The next steps are taking this cycle of play and brainstorming mechanics that push this story forward. There’s so much potential, it’s hard to know where to begin. War-room tactics? Phoenix-Wright-style pixel hunting? Social and public influence campaigning? We’ll see as we further test some ideas out and start prototyping. Alongside the video game, we’re also developing a tabletop role-playing game (TRPG) to really bring the whole experience to life, so be sure to look out for our specific TRPG dev blogs as well!

A huge thanks to the people who shared their experiences. The game is so much richer for the time and effort gifted to us, not to mention the mammoth efforts they’ve pulled off so far through their climate activism!

Anticiplay is an NWO Vidi-funded research project that aims to establish a new design paradigm for the gaming sector in collaboration with CreaTures EU. You can find our mission statement here! Follow us @anticiplay on Twitter, and feel free to engage us with any questions, games that you think are inspiring, and anything else!

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Anticiplay

An NWO Vidi research project • Exploring how games can help imagine & realize sustainable futures • Games For Better Futures & Futures For Better Games 🎮