By Martine Rutten, MK 27
It started as a nice proposal-winning catchphrase for the MK27 project: “we will use serious gaming to raise awareness about sustainable planning of land and water resources, among decision makers and citizens.”
Then during our first project meeting, our Vietnamese partners really hooked onto this idea and asked me “when and how are we going to implement this?”
Further discussion led to the idea that serious gaming would not only be useful for raising awareness but also for data collection. If we could “gamify” data collection, we could make more sustainable use of citizen observatories. Yet the question “how to implement this?” remained.
Luckily, the Dutch program NICHE-NUFFIC also liked this idea and was willing to support a game-design training. During a hot week in August in Hanoi, we designed a range of gaming prototypes at Thuyloi University. The experienced serious game designer, Annebeth Lois, guided us through this process using the steps described in guidelines that you can find on the MK27 wikispaces page. At the end of the week, we designed the prototype of A Walk around the Lake, the LandscAPPer, and a few others.
The ambitious goal of the board game, A Walk around the Lake, is that players will develop more “water resources friendly” behavior. Players are asked questions that guide them in learning about the personal impact they have on the water systems, what impact pollution has on them, and what they can do about it. They are asked questions such as: what are sources of micro plastics? How many fish do you eat per week (with feedback on how much plastic that equals to)? How often do you re-use your plastic bag?
The game seeks to change behavior by making people aware of the problem, showing alternative actions and using the positive effect of reinforcing social norms by playing the game in a group and referring to environmental-friendly behavior of role models such as famous pop artist or soccer players.
First tests showed mixed results. We still need to work on the framing of the game to avoid responses such as “ games are for children” and “the government should take care of the water.” Yet the initial reactions from participants playing in Hanoi around the lakes and during the VaCI conference on October 19th have encouraged us to continue and improve the design step by step. The next big test will be in December, with a Hai Ha commune in Hai Hau district, Nam Dinh province. As our project progresses we seek to include more and more results in the game. The translation of complex research results into something easily understandable with a “human dimension” is a challenge for researchers.
The LandScAPPer is a second idea that evolved from the workshop. This App starts with the question “are you the healthiest landscaper?” and guides the player through several stages. The first stage is land use validation. The player will see the most accurate land use map which has been produced by MK27 and is asked to check its accuracy. Points can be gained for correct classification, but even more for correcting incorrect sections. In this way we believe that “ground truthers” will actively seek areas that are not correct in the map. By taking a photo, they can upload proof that something on the map is incorrect. In the next stage, we will ask players what kind of land use they anticipate in the future. This will provide us with valuable information for scenario development. After this, we would ideally like to give the player an idea of how specific land use effects ecosystem services.
Students of Hanoi University of Natural Resources are our guinea pigs. Again, it is a challenge for researchers to simplify the outcomes of complex models for the students and add the “human dimension.” In the last stage, we would ask some questions on the valuation of ecosystem services. Given that data quality is always a large concern in Citizen Science, we are now working on quantifying any errors related to land use classification by citizens.
The development of this app would be very ambitious, but would nicely tie a lot of the MK27’s work together so it is a goal worth striving for. Currently teams of MK27 researchers and students are working very hard to test the prototypes, adjust the prototype and test again. As we learnt during the gaming training, many cycles are needed to develop a good game. Follow the progress on our wikispaces page or on Facebook. Any ideas on how to add a “human dimension” that you have from your own research on Healthy Rivers and Landscapes are very welcome.