School of Art, Media, and Technology

MFA DT and PETLab are Major Players at the UN Climate Conference!

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Parsons’ MFA DT alums, faculty members and PETLab Director Colleen Macklin attended the recent UN Climate Conference in Doha, Qatar (Nov. 29th to Dec. 3rd), in the hopes of changing the game on disaster readiness and crisis decision-making.

Macklin, also an Associate Professor at AMT, represented Parsons and PETLab’s work with the American Red Cross and Red Cross Red Crescent Climate Centre. They hosted a meeting where attendees played games from their worldwide project, Games for a New Climateplayful, often non-digital activities that actively engage participants in experiential learning through the simulation of complex decisions with consequences.


A writer for  Reuters had this to say about Ready!, a crisis-response game by Parson’s MFADT students Ramiro Corbetta, with Shaan Sarang and Catalina Cortazar Valdes:

“Doha is due to be hit by a huge dust storm in four hours. We must spring into action to protect the Qatari capital’s population. What do we do?In this disaster preparedness game we are asked to write down our actions and rank them by priority and level of difficulty. Then, racing against another team, we’re given a couple of minutes to roll dice that match the numbers allotted to our emergency plans, ‘completing’ as many as possible before the storm hits. The activity leads to an animated group discussion about whether we’ve made the right choices, what infrastructure or other preparation would have needed to have been in place to make the right things happen, and what we had missed out. It left me wondering whether I shouldn’t try this out back home in France, where we seem to be getting more droughts, forest fires and fiercer storms.”

AlertNet’s Megan Rowling spoke with Pablo Suarez, associate director for research and innovation with the Red Cross/Red Crescent Climate Centre, about how the games are being put into practice by aid agencies.

MFADT alums Mohini Freya Dutta (’12) and Ben Norskov (’12, now an adjunct professor at AMT as well) , who have been working together as Antidote Games, and with the Climate Centre since graduating as freelance advisors, were also there presenting their game, “Bitten!”  This is a battle between ‘Mosquito’ and ‘Human’ players, played by passing cards to represent a variety of actions, for example: Humans are “Bitten” by Mosquitoes (threatening a Malaria infection) or can “Clean Out” the “Breeding Grounds” to quell the growth of Mosquitoes, depending on the individuals and cards they encounter. A changing climate often benefits the Mosquito.Creating productive ways for people to interact is a difficult challenge at any large conference. Games like Bitten! makes those interactions more fun and frequent, while raising awareness of the ways in which climate change affects mosquito breeding grounds and Malaria infection.

Images from PETLab and Bitten!

Colleen Maklin also spoke on games and their impact at the conference’s popular weekend event, Development and Climate Days, along with such illustrious names as Mary Robinson, former President (and first female president) of Ireland! Colleen’s message was thus:

“I believe that games teach systems literacy, and when we design them, they teach systems literacy as well as empathy (because in order for our games to be played, they need to be humanely accessible). These two modes of thought, from both sides of our brain: a systems perspective and an empathetic outlook prepare us to be actively engaged problem-solvers. And when we design games for each other, we learn one more thing. We learn how to bring out the best in people. So no matter how inconsequential you might think games are — what they do is not inconsequential, especially for this challenge we are all here to confront: one that is systemic and has deeply human consequences.”

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