EGU Games Day 2023

The European Geoscience Union General Assembly, Europe’s largest gathering of geoscience researchers and practitioners, attracts over 16,000 of them to Vienna, Austria, each year. EGU, as both the organisation and the conference are affectionately known, covers a wide and diverse variety of topics within its definition of geoscience – it’s certainly a lot more than rocks and beards, with topics ranging from hydrology, natural hazards, the geomorphology of Mars, ocean science, and education and outreach.

Within EGU is a growing movement. A nascent community of likeminded geoscientists who appreciate the transformative power of games. The know that games are not mere distractions or a means to procrastinate, but are in fact immersive vessels of the most powerful communication tool humankind has ever created – storytelling. Games tap into this in a way no other medium can match, placing you within stories and given you agency to influence and shape it. This is why the games industry is worth a lot more than the music and movie industries combined.

Initially set up by myself, Sam Illingworth, and Rolf Hut in 2017, the Games for Geoscience session has been an international platform for this growing community. Since, we were joined by Liz Lewis and Jaz Scarlett, and now Lisa Gallagher and Maria Elena Orduno Alegria, as a convening group and expanded to include the Geoscience Games Night – with Wednesday’s becoming the unofficial EGU Games Day.

Games for Geoscience. Wed, 26 Apr, 10:45–12:30 CEST, PICO spot 3a

The first ‘bring-and-play’ Geoscience Games Night was held in 2018, featuring games like Flood: Attack and Defend, Downpour!, and a hydrology Snakes and Ladders game. It was well attended and our small space was cramped with people wanting to play the games.

The Games Night returned in 2019 and was a huge success. We had a bigger space but we ran out of tables, so many people took to playing cross-legged on the floor. In 2019, a Games Night led by Rolf Hut was held in San Francisco at EGU’s US cousin, the American Geophysical Union’s Fall Meeting.

In 2020, the face-to-face Games Night could not go ahead, with EGU rapidly needing to adapt to a virtual conference. We didn’t want to do nothing so we live-streamed the convenors playing the geoscience classic, Monster Flux! Ok, it has nothing to do with geoscience but we discussed geoscience as we tried to play the game at the same time.

The conference was virtual again in 2021 and we joined the 8-bit revolution by hosting a Games Night within a GatherTown Games Room. What pandemic would be without a virtual pub quiz, and I took up the mantle of quiz master with my Eurovision, Spurs, and Rolf Hut themed quiz and treasure hunt.

Sadly, the uncertainty in 2022 that forced EGU into an unexpected hybrid delivery meant we had no Games Night, but we are back for 2023!

The ‘bring-and-play’ event is returning for the first time since 2019 – details can be found here on the conference website. We rely on people bringing games along, preferably with some geoscience theme but we won’t be checking, so please do bring something along. Or, just bring yourself and join one of the other games happening. Snacks and refreshments will be available in the nearby poster halls.

Onsite Geoscience Games Night. Weds 26 Apr, 18:00-19:00 CEST, Room -2.31

Sadly, we needed to cancel our hybrid event, the live stream with science-roleplay heroes, the RPGeeks. Instead, we will host a hang-out and play event in the Gaming Hub of the EGU Gather Town Games Room. The Games Room itself it to the left of the central escalators, then go forward and to the left. I (Chris) will be playing TerraNil – come join me to chat games and geoscience as we play our favourite games.

Virtual Geoscience Games Night. Weds 26 Apr, 18:00-19:00 CEST, The Games Hub in the Games Room.

If you have a game you’d like to bring to the Games Night, please get in touch (cloudskinner at gmail do com) as we’d love to promote it. Here’s what we have confirmed:

Dirty Matter: The Soil Game by Christina van Midden, Emma (Bea) Burak, Nicolas Beriot, Michael Löbmann, and Tanvi Taparia

A co-operative board and card game where players work together to prevent famine, water pollution, and climate breakdown by building healthy soil.

Save the Glaciers! An educational escape kit by Anne Chapuis, Clara Burgard, Etienne Ducasse, Samuel Cook, Léna Gauthier, Cruz Garcia Molina, Amélie Bataille, and Gaël Durand

Save the glaciers! is an educational escape kit designed for teenagers (11-18 years old) to learn what glaciers are, how they move, how they react to climate change and what people can do to slow down their melt.

Players have to sequentially solve 4 enigmas to unlock the next enigma until they reach the end of the game. Each enigma is designed to make the player discover and understand the following processes:

Melting of mountains glaciers contributes to sea level rise; Anatomy and mass-balance of a mountain glacier: What is it made of? How does it form? How does it grow and shrink?; Glacier sliding: glaciers are not static, they slowly slide under their own weight; Mountain glaciers are losing mass all around the world due to climate change, which can be observed by looking at their retreating termini.

Climate Fresk Workshop by Eliot Jager.

Want to help tackle climate change but don’t have time to become a climate scientist? In the collaborative Climate Fresk workshop you will learn the fundamental science behind climate change and empower you to take action.

Today, more than 1 million people have played this game!

France, Paris, 2022-12-14. Illustration of the Climate fresk workshops to raise awareness of climate change. Photograph by Mary-Lou Mauricio / Hans Lucas. France, Paris, 2022-12-14. Illustration de l’atelier de la Fresque du Climat pour sensibiliser au dereglement climatique. Photographie par Mary-Lou Mauricio / Hans Lucas.

Frenk Out will be bringing the games Star Realms and Welcome to the Moon.

Rolf Hut will be bringing a selection of print and play games and there may even be a Chat GPT created eco-RPG game on offer.

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