Gaming for Good with KATOA
April 21, 2023
Attention, gamers — we’ve got big news for you!
On April 20, EARTHDAY.ORG hosted “Gaming for Good: A Catalyst for Environmental Change,” a live webinar which spotlighted KATOA, a climate change-focused video game set to release on April 22nd, 2023 in honor of Earth Day. We were joined by a panel of representatives from Sankari Studios, the creator of KATOA, in a conversation about how their team is reimagining the video game universe as a global platform for climate action. In case you missed it, here’s everything you need to know about KATOA, how it’s tackling climate change, and how you can play starting on April 22nd.
Victoria Raiser, the CEO of Sankari Studios, explained that preliminary ideas for a game like KATOA were first floated sixteen years ago, and Sankari Studios has been conducting research and developing the game interface intensively for the past four years. With 3.7 billion people playing video games around the world for a total of 120 billion hours a year, Raiser and her team identified a unique potential for education and mobilization in the global gaming community. Their research found that gamers have a strong desire to make change in the world — in fact, Hanno Fichtner of the Sankari team mentioned a recent study which reported that three in four gamers have an interest in fighting climate change — but they don’t know where to start. Sankari Studios wanted to harness this capacity by bringing the fight to gamers and giving them a sense of agency. As Raiser put it, “There is such a hunger for doing good, but the tools are missing.”
And so, KATOA was born.
What is KATOA?
KATOA is a fun, engaging, and visually enticing video game that also manages to convey the severity of the climate crisis in a digestible and action-oriented fashion. Throughout the game, users can interact with the charming sea creatures, vibrant plant life, and other stunning 3D graphics found in KATOA’s renditions of some of the world’s most critical ecosystems. As a player, your job is to reclaim the real-world biomes depicted in the game from “toxic blight,” a symbolic cartoon representation of the corporate greed and pollution harming our planet. In the webinar, Chief Creative Officer Christian Rossi explained that one of the most impactful aspects of KATOA is the delivery of climate change facts and information through the stories told by the fauna, or animals, in the biomes. Rossi calls this “secret learning.” As the player develops relationships with their fauna (who are charming caricatures with unique personalities) and cultivates a “haven” for them to live in, they can send the fauna out on missions to tackle other real world climate issues– Rossi mentioned, for example, a mission to shut down illegal fishing in the arctic, or to clean up an oil spill in Israel. This is climate literacy reimagined.
What makes KATOA so important?
The panelists made it clear that the benefits of the game are twofold. First, by drawing a connection between the environment in the game and the real-world biomes that mirror them, players will inevitably develop a degree of climate literacy. Shayne Hayes, a panelist representing the climate resilience foundation Arsht-Rock, explained that video games are an ideal platform for education– especially for children and young adults. “Students are learning when they’re engaged,” he stated, “so games, in my view, are the perfect tool for teaching students about these topics. Students are already engaged on these platforms– all we have to do is make entertaining games educational.” And that’s exactly what KATOA did.
Beyond the educational benefits of the game, KATOA has partnered with nonprofits around the globe (including EARTHDAY.ORG) to fund essential conservation projects. Players earn impact points from completing missions and reclaiming biomes, which are underwritten by Sankari Studios and its partners as real money put towards a sponsored conservation initiative of the player’s choice (the developers mentioned planting seagrass and building penguin enclosures as a few examples). In other words, as the official KATOA website states, “You play. We pay.”
Not only can you view your personal impact bar to track exactly what you’re contributing, but you can also see the impact bar for the entire KATOA community, which reflects the collective contributions of all KATOA players around the world. Hecco claimed that one of KATOA’s greatest strengths lies in the connections it draws between action and understanding. Gamers not only see the impact they’re making on the world, but they learn why that impact is important and necessary.
KATOA checks every box: as Rossi put it, “You can have escapism, you can have education, and you can have fulfillment in a game. They’re not mutually exclusive.” And, with KATOA, you can have something else: you can actually contribute to conservation efforts around the world. The next time you’re waiting in line for your coffee, grab your phone and play KATOA. The game is free and designed for mobile devices, so impactful tasks can be completed in as little as five minutes on your smartphone. KATOA launches on April 22 and will be available on the App Store– we hope you’ll join us in being one of the first to download it this Earth Day.
Want to know more?
If you want to watch the livestream, the recording of Gaming for Good: A Catalyst for Environmental Change is available on Youtube. You can also find more information about KATOA on the Sankari Studios website.