Fortnite is currently taking the lead as the world’s most popular video game. The first-person shooter game has 250 million registered players — and counting. If Fortnite were a country, it would be the fifth-largest in the world. With such a large fan base, the game has the potential to be a platform for education, and the “Climate Fortnite Squad” tried to do just that.
There’s a lot of misunderstanding out there about climate change. Denial is as high as ever, and scientists are having trouble convincing the public global warming is an urgent issue. That’s why Henri Drake, PhD student in Physical Oceanography at MIT, decided to start a player squad of climate experts to spread information about the planet.
Once a week, Drake and a guest entered Fortnite’s Battle Royale to discuss the climate, sharing their gameplay and conversation on a video game streaming platform called Twitch.
Drake’s unique project was inspired by a tweet posted by Katharine Hayhoe, director of the Climate Science Center at Texas Tech University, whose son is an avid Fortnite player. Hayhoe compared the view count on her climate science webinar (a thousand) to the views on her 11-year-old’s Fortnite stream: 10,000.
She added, somewhat in jest, “is there a climate version of Fortnite?” This was on July 18, 2018, and within days, Drake spotted the tweet and volunteered to put a team together to combine his passion for climate change activism with his newfound love for the video game.
Drake explained his motivation on Twitter as well, tweeting his intention was to tap “the widespread enthusiasm for Fortnite to get people just as excited about climate change.” He spent much of his childhood playing video games and was eager to finally integrate the hobby with his academic work.
Drake’s project provides a unique opportunity for climate change awareness to spread outside academic and social media settings. With the huge popularity of Fortnite, it’s an ideal platform for culturally-aware scientists to reach a larger audience. Between battles, experts are able to connect with the general public, who may not be seeking information on global warming elsewhere.
The “Climate Fortnite Squad,” though now discontinued, is still an inspiration for similar projects. Drake’s focus has since turned to his climate science
“It was definitely a fun project, and I’m glad I did it — but in hindsight, I wasn’t passionate enough to make it really take off in the long term,” Drake
Drake mentioned the success of similar projects, like that of YouTubers Simon Clark and Climate Adam. “They’re phenomenal at what they do,” Drake comments. “Neither focus explicitly on climate games, but the feel of their channels and online communities
Though his Fortnite days are behind him, Drake is still passionate about climate change. He’s deep in PhD research, and is helping plan the 13th annual Graduate Climate Conference through MIT. He spends a lot of time doing outreach on Twitter and Reddit, continuing his trend of using popular platforms to educate the general public about environmental science.
Climate Fortnite Squad Sources
The Verge: How A Fortnite Squad of Scientists is Hoping to Defeat Climate Change
MIT: An Interview with Henri Drake
Wired: I Learned About Climate Change by Watching Fortnite on Twitch
Science Alert: Scientists are Playing Fortnite on Twitch to Teach People About Climate Change
Tweet by Henri Drake
Quotes from Henri Drake