Serious games: Game of Resilience
Serious games which exceed pure entertainment goals and are designed for education purposes are becoming more and more popular to “convey ideas and values” (Frasca 2007). Learning in this way is based on experiences, turning a passive consumer into an active player, who seeks and engages with information voluntarily (Ouariachi et al. 2017). Floods, terrorist attacks, cyber-attacks and riots are only some of the threats encountered in Game of Resilience. This game of strategy and cooperation is designed by Paul Kudray, inspired by his real-life experiences when working as an emergency service commander. Paul Kudray holds an MSc in Disaster Management (Coventry University) and is now an International Business Resilience Leader working with and assessing clients in the public and private sectors.
The strategic aim of this game is for players to navigate the board towards the Emergency Hot Zone in order to get the victims to safety. Different squares will allow participants to equip themselves with the necessary skilled people (e.g. emergency services, IT specialists, doctors, volunteers) and resources (e.g. medicine, money, fire extinguishers, warm clothes) to gain entry to the Emergency Hot Zone. Resembling real life, this game rewards cooperation and points are also given to players who exchange skilled people and resources for the greater good. The game also considers the factors of luck (e.g. someone dials 999 on time) and challenges (e.g. bad weather conditions) that are all too present in real emergency scenarios, giving extra points or making players miss a round if landing on these squares respectively. On the Did you Know? squares participants get a piece of practical real-life advice (e.g. how to put together a DIY emergency kit). From an educational perspective, the goal of this game is to make players more aware of the threat posed by different hazards, improve their knowledge and information, and encourage them to take actions in their lives to be more prepared in the case of such events.
Serious games are being widely used for climate change education: mainly to raise awareness of its causes and consequences (e.g. CO2 Alert or Mission Possible), and to encourage a change in day-to-day behaviours (e.g. The Home Sorting Game) (Ouariachi et al. 2017). The success of these games is threefold: firstly, they inspire individuals rather than scaring them with alarmist and negative tones such as the ones used by traditional media (Ouariachi et al. 2017); secondly, they always set achievable challenges with a defined mission, and offer constant feedback to players on their performance which keeps them engaged and motivated (McGonigal 2012); and lastly, they empower gamers to adopt or try out sustainable or protective behaviours with immediate rewards (Ouariachi et al. 2017), unlike real-life situations in which individuals experience a delay or absent gratification (Moser 2010). Although Game of Resilience also deals with hazards that are not purely climate change related, the aforementioned logic still applies, since the overarching educational goal of this game is to raise awareness, improve levels of information, and encourage action.
The floods, terrorist attacks, cyber-attacks and riots present in this game are also some of the threats that the UK is faced with. After such an event, society, cities and the economy have to regain equilibrium, either returning to the pre-existing one, or using the shock as a transformative capacity and establishing a new form of stability. Either notion of resilience is key in restating normality in the face of unexpected events (White and O’Hare 2014). Resilience places responsibility on policy-makers, city planners, businesses, and the general public (Environmental Agency 2009). When hazards are impossible to prevent, private protection measures at the individual and community level, as well as citizen involvement become key in reducing the effects of hazards and reinstating normality (Grothmann and Reusswig 2006). In the case of flooding, for instance, private protection measures could mean purchasing insurance, having an evacuation plan in order, having a provision of sandbags, rearranging furniture, etc. Public awareness of these risks and information on how to behave is thus key in fostering prepared communities (Hopner et al. 2010).
Citizen involvement in knowledge production practices with experts, in which local expertise complements scientific knowledge, is also key in fostering resilient communities but has proven to be a challenge for a number of reasons. Some of these are: mistrust of experts based on previous frustrated experiences; the use of technical language and materials by the experts which are alien to the general public; or an incapacity to create safe spaces for co-creation in which the public feels empowered to contribute with knowledge, and the experts are dissociated from the authoritarian figure (Whatmore and Landstrom 2011). Serious games could contribute to lessening these tensions by settling a playful and collaborative atmosphere between experts and non-exerts directing the attention towards the strategic goal of the game and away from the notions of distrust; by introducing language and materials that are appropriate to all and guiding debate on those terms; and by introducing turns and rules not only making every player equally important, visible, and engaged, but also placing authority on the set of rules or the facilitator.
Ultimately, this game is designed to generate debate which contributes to creating a promising learning platform and improve the interactions and communication between all the different stakeholders (Medema et al. 2016). Generating debate is also interesting because appropriate action in one set of circumstances may not be so in another, and thus information and awareness contributing to a ‘sense of preparedness’ has proven to be a key factor in performing effective action and also as a barrier for psychological distress (Fielding et al. 2007). In analogue games, such as Game of Resilience, debate takes place face-to-face with real people and is often moderated by a facilitator. Having a facilitator would not only guide the debate, but could also improve the aforementioned expert and non-expert encounters, by asking participants to adjust the language employed, or by making sure that the experts don’t dominate the game. Facilitators can be game developers, experts in the field, or school teachers if used in classroom settings (e.g Irrigania). The degree of debate facilitators can push for is however, subject to factors like the design of each game, or to the profile of the players – incorporating debate and slowing the rhythm could for instance disengage younger players. Because of these challenges, very often theoretical considerations related to the topic at hand are reserved for before and after the game (Ewen and Seibert 2016).
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