Design Theories

Taking on the role of a character allows for low-risk experimentation with different points of view to which the player may otherwise not be exposed.

In Environmental Detectives, players assume the role of an environmental scientist who must investigate a toxic spill. In doing so, they take on the responsibilities and perspectives of the scientist and solve the environmental problems presented to them using the tools and approaches available to the character.


  • As a result of the player putting themselves “in another person’s shoes” can increase the chance of them building empathy with that character’s lived experience. This can cause attitudinal shift.
  • Taking on a role that connects the player to their environment can have a measurable impact on a player’s real world identity and attitudes toward environmental action.
  • When a player is able to experience a sense of achievement after completing a realistic problem solving task that can be transferable to the real-world, it can result in increased perceived self-efficacy.


  • Roleplaying encourages emotional and logical empathy through the understanding of a character and the meaning they derive from their game world.
  • It also increases a player’s ability to solve challenges in new and creative ways.
  • See the full Playbook for best practices to consider when looking to use roleplay and narrative to support historically marginalized voices in the advocacy for climate justice.

From the Environmental Game Design Playbook
– by IGDA Climate SIG