Horizon: Forbidden West

“It’s not about the distant hope of creating a new world. It’s about preserving the one we have.”

Forbidden West is the sequel to Zero Dawn in the Horizon series of open-world style video games. This entry in the series contains the most obvious parallels to climate change. Aloy discovers that several subfunctions of GAIA, the AI responsible for terraforming Earth again after the mass extinction event 1000 years ago, are running rampant and causing environmental destruction through extreme weather, water loss, and invasive plant species. Aloy’s task is to gather the subordinate functions and get them working in unison again (see technofuturism, sustainable technology). In the process, she learns that a group of wealthy and influential humans abandoned the planet shortly before the ecosystems collapse (see survival of the richest, planetary boundaries), made themselves essentially immortal through medical advances (see technosplit, singularity), and have now returned to take control of the terraforming program for their own purposes (see control, human dominance, human supremacy).

This game’s main quest highlights how GAIA’s environmental systems are codependent and all part of a single living planet (see Gaia, Earth systems theory, interconnectedness, web of life, Indigenous worldview). The side quests underscore this theme through featuring many different tribes that were once at war but are working toward a united society that embraces the different strengths of each tribe. Aloy helps the tribes find their commonalities and the benefits of their differences through these quests. Meanwhile, the storyline about the wealthy people who escaped the planet’s collapse condemns the actions of the elitist wealthy characters (see the superrich, wealth inequality, ecocide, extractivism) who used their power and means to escape destruction of their own making instead of contributing to the solution like the scientists who created Zero Dawn and GAIA. Like Zero Dawn, Forbidden West offers many opportunities to get young people talking about the value of climate change solutions that may not be enacted in one lifetime (see regeneration). This sequel is also well-suited for discussions about the interdependence of real people and real ecosystems. Several major chapters in the main quest focus on one type of climate disaster, and these chapters would pair nicely with units about that type of environmental destruction and how it relates to other symptoms of climate change.

©2023 ClimateLit (Emily Midkiff)

This game is currently available for PlayStation 4 and Microsoft Windows.

See more Horizon reviews: https://www.climatelit.org/series/horizon

Publisher: Sony Interactive Entertainment, 2022

Pages: 30 hours


Audience: Rebels (14-older)

Format: Games and Other

Topics: Anthropocentrism, Artificial Intelligence (AI), Climate Apartheid, Climate Change, Control, Drought, Earth System, Ecocide, Ecological Collapse, Ecosystems, Environmental Destruction, Extractivism, Extreme Weather Events, Gaia, Green Technology, Human Dominance, Human Impact, Indigenous Worldview, Interconnectedness, Invasive Plant Species, Mass Extinction, Planetary Boundaries, Regeneration, Singularity, Solutions, Technofuturism, Technosplit, Ultra-rich, Wealth Inequality, Web of Life