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Eco-gamers challenge abrdn’s fossil fuel investments with retro arcade game

A group of eco-gamers, ‘Serious People’ have created a video game, “Asset Manager Quest,” to help investment firm ‘abrdn’ move away from its fossil fuel investments. The group engaged staff outside their offices in Edinburgh with a portable arcade machine, challenging them to take on the role of CEO and save the company from disaster.

A group of eco-gamers, Serious People, has organised a creative protest against abrdn, creating a video game that exposes their $3.6 billion investment in fossil fuels. In “Asset Manager Quest”, players take on the role of abrdn’s CEO and decide whether to take the company further down its current disastrous path or towards a more prosperous future with a fossil fuel exclusion policy. The group are challenging employees and abrdn leadership to play the game outside their Edinburgh offices.

Asset Manager Quest has been created in response to the urgency of the climate crisis and the critical role investors play in either worsening or alleviating this global issue.

Asset Manager Quest’s gameplay consists of making decisions to try and fix plummeting staff morale. Besides exiting fossil fuel investments, most of these make things worse. You can give yourself a massive bonus, accuse the media of bullying, or make staff pay for their own tea bags. Many of these choices take inspiration from recent disasters at abrdn, but there are also more satirical scenarios. Players can leave investment banking to become a pastry chef at Edinburgh’s famous Lannan Bakery (which you can rebrand as Lnnn Bakery) or join a secret world order, “The League of Asset Managers”.

For its launch, Serious People placed ads in Edinburgh’s train station and went to abrdn’s headquarters in Edinburgh to engage abrdn’s staff with a portable arcade machine. The rest of the company’s staff had the game delivered to their inbox, while the general public encountered it through billboards in Edinburgh and ads on LinkedIn (featuring a retro remix of the viral TikTok song “Man in Finance”).

“We all want to breathe clean air and live in a thriving natural world. But abrdn is stuck in the past, pumping billions into fossil fuel companies while the planet heats up. Abrdn are toying with our future, so we thought we would play with theirs. Having tried every turnaround plan except this one, it’s time for abrdn’s Chairman and board to take a bold leap into the future and walk away from fossil fuel bonds.”
– Jamie Inman, Founder, Serious People

“Asset Manager Quest is an immersive text-based game with hundreds of possible paths. You can join secret covens, fight undead horses, and enter celestial realms, but the most important thing you can do is stop investing in companies that continue to expand fossil fuels. The game’s graphical capabilities may be somewhat dated, but no more so than abrdn’s disastrous investment strategy.”
– Oli Frost, Lead Game Designer, Serious People

“Every investment abrdn makes in toxic bonds helps fund a new oil pipeline or coal-fired power station. abrdn’s refusal to stop investments in coal, oil and gas amidst mounting public pressure and financial woes is a testament to its shortsightedness. If abrdn persists in financing fossil expansion, they’re steering the company straight into disaster. The time for excuses and half-hearted gestures is over. Abrdn must stop all investments in fossil fuel expansionists to safeguard both its business and the planet.”
– Alice Delemare Tangpuori, Coordinator of the Toxic Bonds Network

Abrdn is currently the fourth most exposed asset manager to toxic bonds and has over $3.6 billion invested in fossil fuel bonds issued by major companies such as Exxon, BP, Shell, and Total. The asset management company also holds investments in bonds and shares issued by Ithaca Energy, co-developer of the controversial Rosebank oilfield in the North Sea. Despite telling campaigners in 2023 that it was reviewing its interests, abrdn remains one of the few European investors without a coal exclusion policy.

Since its rebrand in 2021, abrdn has faced significant challenges, including a drop from the FTSE 100 index, a major fall in share price, over 10% staff layoffs, and the loss of major shareholders like Harris Associates. The company’s previous CEO, Stephen Bird, abruptly left the firm in May, adding to the uncertainty surrounding abrdn’s future.

Play Asset Manager Quest