Games provide a safe space for identity and climate conversations

Queering Climate Change, an initiative fostering safer spaces for LGBTQ+ and marginalised voices in climate justice, held interactive "Gaming for the Planet" events last week.

The interactive events used digital and board games to explore environmental issues through the lens of identity. 

Participants shared thoughts and stories and connected with peers in both Harare, Zimbabwe and Leeds, UK while playing games. 

They explored ideas about climate change, green future spaces, and how marginalised communities, such as LGBT+ people, can shed light on inclusive change. 

Facilitating safe spaces 

The basis of the events were video and board games. The games helped participants to relax into conversations with each other, acting as a basis to return to if in doubt.  

Certain games, like Monopoly and the apocalyptic survival-adventure game Endling, framed critical conversations about society and climate change through their themes, in particular around global extractivism. 

Project partners Patrick Miller, a playwright, gamer, artist and activist, and creative technologist Jefrey Matenje are part of The Gaming Hub ZW in Harare, an initiative that creates spaces for cross-cultural communication and understanding and mutual wellbeing through the use of video games. 

They found that gaming – not always necessarily seen as a serious business – gives participants space to consider and discuss serious topics without confrontation, especially within contexts in which minority populations and views are oppressed. 

A group of facilitators standing in front of a banner that reads "Gaming for the Planet."

The facilitators of the Gaming for the Planet event in Leeds.

Intersecting concerns about climate 

In Leeds, the events were hosted by Professor Martin Zebracki, Jefrey Matenje and Scott Harris from the Leeds University Union LGBT+ Society. They asked participants what environmental matters matter most to them and what changes could improve their everyday life – while using gaming as a soothing escape. 

The discussions that followed brought forward intersecting concerns about climate anxiety and fatigue, global corruption, greenwashing, ethical consumption, and individual vs organisational responsibility towards climate change. 

At the same time, Patrick Miller led events in Harare – similar methods were used in both places but involved different lived experiences of the participants. Although separated by distance, the events were connected by a common cause. 

The events will help the team to further explore the role of gaming as a research method to engage Global South and North communities to queer climate change.   

Queering Climate Change

Queering Climate Change is part of the "For the Public Good" programme, a collaboration between LEEDS 2023, the British Council and the Horizons Institute, Cultural Institute and Sustainability Service at the University of Leeds. 

The project is led by Martin Zebracki, Professor of Human Geography and Social Inclusion at the University of Leeds, in partnership with the Leeds University Union LGBT+ Society, and Patrick Miller and Jefrey Matenje from The Gaming Hub ZW in Harare, Zimbabwe. 

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