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Garden Story, and How Games Impact Charity

By September 29, 2021Philanthropy6 min read

When any sort of art form is created,

including video games, a purpose is always behind it. Most players may see that purpose to be purely that of providing entertainment, and in some cases, that may be true. Some video games were created as a form of escape, as a way to allow their audiences to just enjoy themselves for a period of time. But for some, the purpose is more than just providing entertainment. Some games were developed to bring messages to their viewers, to promote certain ideas that the developers deem important to light.

Garden Story, the first commercial title from developer Picogram and published by Rose City Games, is one of those games. It is a soothing RPG, where the players are transported to a magical world of anthropomorphic food called The Grove. Here, playing as the young grape Concord, the players are able to complete tasks for the residents of The Grove and protect their home from monsters. Gameplay-wise it has been compared to games such as Stardew Valley and the older Legend of Zelda games. But, while completing those tasks, the game also slowly teaches players about climate resilience.

Now, what exactly is climate resilience? The Center for Climate and Energy Solutions, an environmental nonprofit organization, describes climate resilience as “the ability to anticipate, prepare for, and respond to hazardous events, trends, or disturbances related to climate”. This can be seen through the distribution of resources such as water to deal with scarcity, or increasing plant cover throughout a paved area to lessen the effects of flash floods.

In Garden Story, many of the tasks that the player completes to aid The Grove’s residents are examples of actions that can be taken to increase a community’s climate resilience, but that’s not the only action that the developers of Garden Story do to teach their players about climate resilience.

On top of their lessons within the game, the developers of Garden Story have paired up with the Atlantic Council’s Adrienne Arsht-Rockefeller Foundation Resilience Center, an organization dedicated to responding to climate change and aid in community preparations to the challenges of migration and security that comes with a changing climate.

The partnership began at Pax East 2020, where members of Rose City Games met Atlantic Council representatives. “We chatted a bit about our projects at the time and agreed that Garden Story might be a good fit,” a representative from Rose City Games wrote, “Following up a few months later, we explored Atlantic Council’s mission side-by-side with (Picogram’s) vision and found that there were a lot of matches. Our goal then was to solidify the messaging and put content in the game that was more directly relevant to real-world climate resilience topics.”

As climate change’s effects are now being seen at an alarming rate worldwide, between the increase in occurrence and severity of natural disasters to famine and water scarcity, climate resilience has become increasingly important to protect both those that are in currently vulnerable resource situations and those that could potentially end up in such a situation in the future.

In the end, this includes all of us, for even if we don’t feel climate change’s worst effects immediately, the connections between our atmosphere and the natural systems that we rely on mean that at any point, our communities could be faced with resource scarcity and the other threats that come from climate change.

The situation is more dire for some, however, especially when it comes to the availability of food as a resource. The World Hunger Education Service, a nonprofit organization with the goal of researching trends in hunger and educate the public about these trends and how to alleviate their causes, has compiled a report which shows how the current rise in worldwide hunger and food insecurity correlates with the rise in disasters linked to climate change, as the damage done to agriculture due to these disasters had increased food security worldwide.

In light of this fact, Picogram and Rose City Games has teamed up with No Kid Hungry, a national campaign ran by Share Our Strength, a nonprofit organization dedicated to solving the problem of hunger worldwide, to host a charity fundraiser through Stream for No Kid Hungry, which has already raised almost $7,000 towards ending childhood hunger in the United States.

“Our partnership with Stream for No Kid Hungry also came about from general community outreach,” the representative said, “We saw an immediate connection to Garden Story due to the food-theming, and a deeper connection also stood out due to messages around community support that (Picogram) had already been pursuing.”

In all, Garden Story has been created not just to entertain, but to share the ideas of climate resilience and how even one person (or grape) can aid their community towards being more resilient in a changing world.

And the teams behind Garden Story have gone beyond just showing these practices in their game, pairing up with organizations such as the Atlantic Council and No Kid Hungry to not just spread awareness for climate resilience, but to also put their beliefs into action as they tackle a current problem that may only become worse as climate change continues.

You may be a small grape in a big world, as Concord is at the start of the game, but Garden Story and the emphasis Picogram and Rose City Games have put on their charity efforts shows that you can still create positive change in your community, even if it feels small.

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