The environment at the heart of the concerns of the next generation in video games

For three years now, the Montreal studio Reflector has imposed a social theme on ISART students. Last year, the directive was to design a game accessible to people with an autism spectrum disorder. This year, it was the environment that animated the discussions in the classroom, giving rise to Lorekheim: Rise of a Fallen World, a single-player game that criticizes overconsumption.

In this game, you embody a guardian of nature who tries to maintain the balance of the environment. [Pour y arriver]you must use your resources responsiblysummarizes Joanna Bendaoud, artistic director of the game.

The character, for example, must make sure not to use up all his resources, otherwise they will not be renewed.

Players must avoid over-consumption of resources throughout the game.

Photo: ISART Digital

We wanted to recreate this butterfly effect of the environment in the game. If you consume too much, it will have an effect on your gameplay and the experience will be more difficult. [À l’inverse]if you put energy back into the [ressources]you will change your environment in a positive way, […] by opening up new paths, for exampleexplains Xavier Rouyer, designer of the game.

And all this materializes visually: a viscous mass similar to oil, called corruption by students, takes over the environment when resources are overused.

We really wanted the player to understand that it’s his choices that lead him to the conclusion of the game, as is the case in everyday life: we have to be careful what we do, because the consequences are the. »

A quote from Joanna Bendaoud

The game therefore emphasizes the journey ahead rather than the end result. This is a very innovative game mechanic, according to Christopher Cimbaro, technical director of Reflector who has been overseeing the ISART cohorts for three years.

A futuristic video game character is about to jump on ominous rocks.

What students call “corruption” in the game, a viscous mass that looks like petroleum, symbolizes the effects of human beings on nature.

Photo: ISART Digital

The way to fight the enemy is also very different from that of most traditional games: instead of having to destroy it, the goal is to attack it with energy in order to purify it.

Greener reflections

Before embarking on the creation of this game, the students of ISART were not empty-handed. To be inspired, and even informed, Reflector staff members and college students participated in workshops and conferences organized by Hugue Asselin, an environmental expert and lecturer at the Université du Québec à Montreal (UQAM).

[On voulait] train students so that they can develop accurate and verified informational contentcan we read in the press release.

Among the most striking data highlighted during these information sessions, Xavier Rouyer names the one according to which the video game industry in the world emits as much carbon as the automobile industry in Quebec.

I’m very aware that making a video game about the environment can be ironic. I wondered a lot about thishe mentions.

As I worked on the game, I made peace with it. ‘Cause we ain’t a AAA studio [superproduction]and it is a means of expressing oneself on a crucial subjectcontinues Xavier Rouyer.

Video games are one of the most viewed media in the world, and it touches a lot of people. It is a good medium to convey messages. »

A quote from Dorian Duroyaume, environmental artist and level dresser

Environmental concerns also weigh in the balance when it comes to choosing whether a title is only playable in single player or in online multiplayer mode. It’s that multiplayer games require the use of servers, which are energy-intensive.

This is one of the reasons, in addition to technical issues, which motivated the choice to make Lorekheim: Rise of a Fallen World a single-player game.

Just because the video game industry isn’t the best on the environment doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be talked about. We got a way to get this message heard [à grande échelle]insists Christopher Cimbaro.

The exercise also encouraged the Reflector Entertainment studio to buy carbon credits from Carbone Boréal. The initiative, led by the University of Quebec at Chicoutimi (UQAC), has resulted in the planting of 50 trees in the province.

A committed succession

Once they graduate, ISART students intend to continue to make their voices heard on the subject of the environment. Joanna Bendaoud, for example, landed an internship in a studio that works precisely on this theme.

As a character artist, it’s hard to sort through job postings on this topic. [car il n’y en a pas des tonnes]. But it’s always a plus for me if the studio is committed to the environment, whether it’s the subject of the game, the secondary subject or even if the company makes efforts in this direction.emphasizes Joanna Bendaoud.

Group photo in a classroom in front of a poster of a video game and another of a school.

“Lorekheim: Rise of a Fallen World” was created by eight students and students from the ISART Digital school. The students were accompanied by mentors from the Montreal studio Reflector Entertainment.

Photo: ISART Digital

For Xavier Rouyer, who is currently working on personal projects, it is even a theme that he intends to push forward in his future jobs in the video game industry.

It changed the way I intend to approach video game design. Even if a game is not designed with the intention of tackling complex themes [comme l’environnement]we can successfully integrate it into the discussions. »

A quote from Xavier Rouyer

Dorian Duroyaume is starting a new job in the video game industry. He hopes to be able to talk about different themes of social value, not just the environment.

A demo of the game Lorekheim: Rise of a Fallen World can be downloaded from the Itch.io website. (New window)

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