How a group of young techies are building virtual games that address climate change



Abaca Games is a youth-led social impact venture committed to the fight against climate change. Using virtual gaming technology, the company seeks to sensitize players to climate change whilst generating funds, through advertising, for tropical reforestation projects. We caught up with Lead Researcher and Narrative Designer, Zachary Van Stanley, who shared his story.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the United Nations.




Using Games to Teach Climate Change

- Zach Van Stanley


Climate change may just be the most important issue for young people to tackle in the coming decades, but one third of students in the United States spend less than an hour of class time a year talking about climate change.  Worse yet, only 38 percent of students learned about the contributions of fossil fuels to climate change. This shocking lack of investment in our collective future compelled me and others at Abaca Games to take action. Recognizing that the climate message wasn’t reaching future leaders, we began searching for solutions.

In short, our solution is a game. Just as Oregon Trail taught history, we are hoping to inspire a new generation with a fun way to learn about how to help the environment. Played during or after school, we hope to encourage young people to take their environmental future into their own hands. For now, policies are still being written by the Boomers but this won’t be the case forever and we want to provide a resource for future change-makers.

Our young team consists of myself, Chris Karounos, Chia Ju Lee, Michael Ellis, and newly Deric Miller. As young change-makers, we have faced multiple challenges. We all live in different areas; meetings generally happen through chats and videos online. We juggle work, school, family, and even married life to get work done. On top of that, our grant does not cover pay for us, so we are volunteering our time (at least for now). As with any group, we also have our creative differences which we must work through. That said, passion really does make the difference. We know that each of us is dedicated to seeing our game become a reality. For that reason, I know that we will create a product we can be proud of and it will make a difference.

Besides the obvious message of responsibility towards climate change, we embody the ideal of taking charge of your own future. Climate change has long been neglected as a problem for future generations. Like it or not, we are those future generations. We have the power to save the Earth, and if innovative initiatives such as Abaca and the Young Champions of the Earth are any indication, we can do it!

If you would like to test the game yourself, click here.


About the author: Zach leads the research for Abaca Games. He is a librarian who dreams of building sustainable libraries around the world. Zach loves reading, riddles, biking, and will accept any challenge to sword fight. He lives in Denver, Colorado with his wife, Malindi, and can be contacted via LinkedIn or by email at