Dev Blog 5 - Strain; The Burden We Place Upon Our World

//This Dev Blog was originally posted as an update on the Earth Rising Kickstarter on September 4th, 2021//

One of the questions we get asked a lot is; what does strain represent? The most common assumption is that it represents CO2, but the fact is that the burden we place upon our planet isn’t as simple as measuring and reducing CO2.

The uncomfortable truth is that there are many other ways we damage our planet:

Methane production; pumped into the air largely by animal agriculture and oil/gas extraction & use, causes more damage as a greenhouse gas than CO2, even though it doesn’t last nearly as long.

- Freshwater usage; draining our natural water supplies in order to irrigate our fields and fuel our industry (only 10% of worldwide freshwater usage is due to domestic use) destroys ecosystems and leads to droughts, habitat destruction and land degradation.

- Chemical and Plastic pollution; impacting our land, oceans and air, these can permeate into any ecosystem, resisting breakdown and being consumed by fish and wildlife, with devastating long-term effects. Even aside from the world at large, humanity itself is suffering from chemical pollution.

Biodiversity Loss; overfishing and hunting of specific species, along with habitat destruction contributes to the extinction of animals across the world, interrupting and breaking food chains and ecosystems, and breaking million-year old cycles that helped our Earth self-regulate and heal itself.

- Land Conversion; deforestation, wetlands draining, city expansion, and the increasing desertification of over-worked land leads to more and more of our planet being stripped of its natural coverage to make way for commodification.

Each of these issues are linked, and in many cases, one will be the cause or effect of another. For example, as chemicals increase the degradation of our land, we convert more natural space to replace it, leading to biodiversity loss and draining new and different freshwater sources.

That’s a lot to keep track of!

In the early stages of Earth Rising, we experimented with the idea that each Unsustainable Practice would contribute a type of Strain that reflected that particular practice’s real life damage. Overfishing would add Biodiversity Strain, while Synthetic Materials added Chemical Pollution Strain, and so on. Meanwhile their alternatives, the Sustainable side, would reduce that same Strain type.

Sure enough, it was just too difficult to keep track of, not to mention that there quickly became glaring implications that certain practices would need to contribute to multiple types of Strain (deforestation, for example, would damage biodiversity, land conservation, and increase CO2!) which made for the wildly complicated process of working out which practices added which strain types from certain sectors and… yeah, it quickly became apparent that if this game was going to be fun, it first needed to be simple enough to actually play.

Ecological Burdens keep track so you don’t have to

While originally our Ecological Burdens around the board were effectively just places to collect different Strain types, we ended up adding the different forms of Strain around the board, strategically placed to represent the ways in which the different sectors added Strain. With this in place, we could simplify the counters to become the non-descript “Strain”, allowing players to distribute the effects of each sector easily with simple calculations.

Better yet, through the overlapping of Ecological Burdens with sectors, this makes no single sector responsible for an Ecological Collapse. While in reality this might be more possible (we’re looking at you, real life Agriculture sector) we found through our playtests that it was important for co-operation that a single player was not blamed for the effects of those disasters.

Just like in the real world, we all share the brunt of Ecological Collapse, and pointing fingers rather than working together to solve the root of the problem will ultimately be our undoing.

Through this, we felt Earth Rising embodied through its mechanics and play the very attitude we need, alongside the cause and effect nature of our Climate Crisis! 

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or read on in Dev Blog 6 - Practices Supporting People; It isn't just about employment! 


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