Created for the IGDA Climate SIG MicroJam, March 2024. “Best Optimized Game” in Watt-Wise 2024.

My approach:

As a climate justice activist, I work both on reducing GHG emissions and trying to help people — especially marginalized people — adapt. I collaborate with other activists to advance regulations and legislation that would protect tenants, workers, and unhoused people from the dangers of extreme temperatures.

The story and challenges of the game are directly influenced by that real-life work.

I deliberately chose to put the player on the “bad side” — that is, they are working with literal demons. For this project, I believed that would lead to more novel, active, and thought-provoking gameplay. The player’s moral alignment also allows for sardonic humour in the player’s relationship with their boss, Beelzebud.

I also wanted to see if playing as the “bad guys” would potentially lead to more educational engagement. The player must identify and actively engage with real-world ways of keeping humans cool and safe during high temperatures. The player is like a “white hat” hacker, attempting to bypass human defenses in a kind of war game — a simulated attack which lets us learn to protect real-life systems and humans.

Early on, I considered putting the player on the “human” side. But many of the steps to protect humans from extreme heat (better insulation, safe working conditions, improved economic equality) are, on a daily basis, more passive. For me, that didn’t suggest the same range of gameplay possibilities.

I did consider making a management-type game, where you play as a boss or manager. But those are the people who, in real life, have largely been resistant to change: it costs money, and in the meanwhile they can externalize costs to the bodies of workers, tenants, and vulnerable people.

I also wanted to specifically include the social, political, and economic aspects of heat emergencies. Some technological solutions exist, but it’s political and economic factors that keep them from being implemented.

Some of the advocacy work I do is around unhoused people; for them, harassment by police is just as much a danger as high temperatures, because that harassment prevents people from establishing their own systems for safety or coping.

Lastly, by putting the player in the context of a demonic gig economy, I wanted to create a sense of moral uncertainty — and hopefully trigger moral engagement and discernment — about the player’s actions.

Inspiration: My approach here is very loosely inspired by games with different kinds of heat zones — Frostpunk, for example. Or the zones of logistical intensity in Unity of Command. I also wanted to echo games in which the player has a potentially adversarial relationship with their guide or “manager”, including Portal and The Stanley Parable.

Also some general resonance with demons as part of an infernal bureaucracy — like the jerk demons in The Good Place — though in this case, it’s not office work but a gig economy.