Given that food intake was shown to be a social action and that mitigating GHG emissions is a “collective risk social dilemma” since “[r]eaching the collective target requires individual sacrifice” (Minski et al., 2008, p. 2291), we develop a digital social interaction game: Carbonia. The game is intended to do exactly that: individual actions regarding low-carbon food consumption must be coordinated in order to achieve a common goal, namely to save Carbonia from destruction. This is only possible if the individual climate-relevant food decisions are coordinated.
Game description: Humans arrive at an unexplored planet. They start building farms and grow animals through ingredients obtained by uploading images of real meals and evaluating them. The abstract animals protect the farms in the game world. Several times a day monsters arrive to destroy the works of the people. The world of all players is connected, so they can go down together, if the monsters are successful. The players get resources by uploading pictures of their meals and rate others. These resources are used to build and improve animals that defend the players. Through these operations, conclusions on behavior can be drawn, when the game mechanism is accepted by the players. This game is played in the landscape-modus on a smartphone The success of the game is based on the interaction of the players and the uploading of food images. The game is a circular process. Meals that the players eat should be photographed and uploaded. Then the player should indicate the composition of the food by evaluating the proportions of the three main ingredients. Players can choose from 16 food categories, divided into 4 main categories (meat, cereals, vegetables and dairy products).
Summing up the social game Carbonia does not manipulate the information presented to citizens to change their attitudes and behavior without asking them for their consent, such as nudges; but, if consented to, it reorganizes the information presented to the players in a way that is beneficial for changing their attitudes and their behavior without necessarily being transparent in this effort. This makes our approach different from governance instruments such as educational campaigns that are based on the transparent presentation of relevant information to the citizens. Social games, such as Carbonia, can thus be understood as a new semi-paternalistic, highly scalable, participative governance instrument based on consented manipulation that allows designing policies to face global change.
The game intervention is further accompanied by a panel network intervention study in order to assess the mechanics and (individual) factors driving the behavioral change. We are thus able to link individual decision making and game behavior to individual characteristics as well as to changes in the social network of the individuals.