Local author named grand prize winner in global videogame competition

Aric McBay’s game, Maybe We Saved The World, was named Grand Prize Winner at the Just Play Jam. Screen captured image.

A videogame by local author Aric McBay is the grand prize winner of a global competition for games about climate change.

The game, Maybe We Saved The World, was one of five finalists chosen from teams around the world as part of Just Play: A Game Jam for Climate Futures, according to a release from the local author.

“Games have enormous potential to help us explore better futures,” said McBay, who has written seven books about climate justice and social movements. “Video games are among the most powerful tools we have to help people think and feel their way through the climate emergency.”

McBay’s game was showcased at the Hollywood Climate Summit in Los Angeles, and the winner was announced at the Summit’s closing party on the night of Friday, Jun. 28, 2024. According to the release, the prize included $10,000 USD.

“I feel honoured and genuinely surprised!” said McBay. “I’m not a programmer by trade. I don’t have formal training — I got started as a coder by building automation systems for our organic farm on Howe Island.”

According to the release, McBay designed, wrote, and programmed the winning game. His sister Leslie McBay provided voice acting, while LA-based composer Winnie Liu created original music and sound.

Maybe We Saved The World is “a procedurally-generated narrative game of climate crisis and community action.” McBay explained.

“In each five-minute run you can make change in your neighbourhood, from joining protests to encouraging community gardens. But you might also encounter the challenges of climate change including floods, droughts, and wildfires,” he said.

Just Play: A Game Jam for Climate Futures was organized by impact media companies Cinereach, Anima Interactive, and Dreamspace.

While McBay’s game is still a prototype, the win comes with the possibility of support from contest organizer Cinereach, the media company behind Oscar-nominated films like Beasts of the Southern Wild and Marcel the Shell with Shoes On.

“We’re keen to develop the project further,” McBay said.

Aric McBay. Photo via his website.

Just Play is the second video game award McBay has won this year, according to the release. He’s also the writer and narrative designer of Toronto-based indie studio Pomsky Games. In May, it was announced that their in-development game The Light Within, a mobile game about mental health, was a winner of Unity for Humanity 2024.

“Unity of Humanity is extremely competitive, with the winners chosen from hundreds of teams from around the world,” McBay stated. “To be chosen meant a lot to our team. And Unity For Humanity comes with a substantial cash grant, enough to finish the game.”

For McBay, these wins also show the potential of games to address serious issues. “Games have really matured as an art form since Super Mario,” he said. “Now, video games can be an interactive way to learn and to explore some of the most important issues of our time, from the climate emergency to mental health.”

What’s next for McBay?

“I’m working on a game specifically about Kingston’s climate futures,” said McBay, who is also the Climate Justice Lead at the Providence Centre for Justice, Peace, and Integrity of Creation. “I’m really excited about the possibilities that come from combining games with research and community action.”

Learn more about Maybe We Saved The World — and play the prototype for yourself — at: https://mcbaya.itch.io/maybe-we-saved-the-world.

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