Counter-fun, scholarly legitimacy, and environmental engagement – or why academics should code games
Acknowledged as urgent and complex, the communication of environmental science is at once an outcome and a subject of academic research. In this article, we detail the results of workshops with young residents of five “Antarctic gateway cities” (Hobart, Christchurch, Punta Arenas, Ushuaia, and Cape Town) who helped design and evaluate an online game that sought to communicate complex intersections of climate policy and science. We focus here on secondary effects of the workshops and game. On the one hand, outputs such as digital games respond to renewed desires for and from researchers to reach beyond scholarly sanctuaries and engage with real-world issues and communities in ways that question barriers of expertise and institutional entitlement. On the other, such dissolutions expose gaps in competency that can unnerve both researchers and participants, interrogating the expediency of collaborative game design and evaluation, and posing questions about the broader role and scope of “non-traditional” research outputs. Elaborating on Pérez Latorre’s notion of “counter-fun”, we chart our efforts to engage youth audiences in Antarctic cities through workshops, social media and anonymous statistics derived from gameplay. We conclude that game design and evaluation, as methods that bind and orient researchers and participants toward common objects of interest, can yield surprising channels of speculation and dialogue that align neither with conventional research nor the planned engagement of non-traditional outputs.
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