Special Issue "Understanding Game-based Approaches for Improving Sustainable Water Governance: The Potential of Serious Games to Solve Water Problems"

A special issue of Water (ISSN 2073-4441). This special issue belongs to the section "Water Resources Management, Policy and Governance".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (1 September 2018).

Printed Edition Available!
A printed edition of this Special Issue is available here.

Special Issue Editors

Dr. Wietske Medema
Website
Guest Editor
Department of Bioresource Engineering, McGill University, Ste Anne de Bellevue, Quebec, Canada
Interests: integrated, collaborative and adaptive water resources management; transboundary watershed governance; systems thinking; institutional development and capacity building; social learning; virtual and interactive learning networks and partnerships; change agents; knowledge co-creation; transformational leadership
Mr. Chengzi Chew
Website SciProfiles
Guest Editor
Serious Games at DHI, Agern Allé 5, 2970 Hørsholm, Denmark
Interests: hydro-informatics and water management; combining numerical models with game mechanics to develop serious games for educational purposes and to improve stakeholder processes in the field of water; public–private partnerships on the application of serious games; data management and visualization; mobile and web applications
Prof. Dr. Jan Franklin Adamowski
Website
Guest Editor
Faculty of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, Department of Bioresource Engineering, McGill University
Interests: water resources modeling; integrated, collaborative and adaptive water resources management
Special Issues and Collections in MDPI journals
Prof. Dr. Igor Mayer
Website
Guest Editor
Academy for Digital Entertainment, NHTV Breda University of Applied Sciences, Monseigneur Hopmansstraat 1, 4817 JT Breda, The Netherlands
Interests: playful organizations and learning systems; gaming-simulation and serious games for policy analysis, decision-making, management and organization; digital game and media technology for innovation in trade, industry, social and public sectors; sustainability
Prof. Arjen Wals
Website SciProfiles
Guest Editor
Department of Social Sciences, Wageningen University, P.O. Box 47, 6700 AA Wageningen, The Netherlands
Interests: education; educational research; environmental education; transformation; participation; learning; social learning; sustainability; sustainable agriculture; sustainable development; sustainable energy; sustainability transitions; learning processes

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

The sustainable governance of water resources relies on processes of multi-stakeholder collaborations and interactions that facilitate knowledge co-creation and social learning. Governance systems are often fragmented, forming a barrier to adequately address the myriad of challenges affecting water resources, including climate change, increased urbanized populations as well as pollution. Transitions towards sustainable water governance will likely require innovative learning partnerships between public, private and civil society stakeholders. It is essential that such partnerships involve vertical and horizontal communication of ideas and knowledge, an enabling and democratic environment characterised by informal and open discourse. There is increasing interest in learning based transitions. Thus far, much scholarly thinking and, to a lesser degree, empirical research has gone into understanding the potential impact of social learning on multi-stakeholder settings. The question of whether such learning can be supported by forms of serious gaming has hardly been asked. This Special Issue critically explores the potential of serious games to support multi-stakeholder social learning and collaborations in the context of water governance. Serious games may involve simulations of real-world events and processes, and are aimed at challenging players to solve contemporary societal problems; they therefore have a purpose beyond entertainment. They seem to offer a largely untapped potential to support social learning and collaboration by facilitating access to and the exchange of knowledge and information, enhancing stakeholder interactions, empowering a wider audience to participate in decision making, and providing opportunities to test and analyze the outcomes of policies and management solutions. Little is known about how serious games can be used in the context of collaborative water governance to maximize their potential for social learning. While several studies have reported on examples of serious games, there is comparably less research about how to assess the impacts of serious games on social learning and transformative change.

Dr. Wietske Medema
Prof. Jan Franklin Adamowski
Prof. Arjen Wals
Prof. Igor Mayer
Mr. Chengzi Chew
Guest Editors

Manuscript Submission Information

Manuscripts should be submitted online at www.mdpi.com by registering and logging in to this website. Once you are registered, click here to go to the submission form. Manuscripts can be submitted until the deadline. All papers will be peer-reviewed. Accepted papers will be published continuously in the journal (as soon as accepted) and will be listed together on the special issue website. Research articles, review articles as well as short communications are invited. For planned papers, a title and short abstract (about 100 words) can be sent to the Editorial Office for announcement on this website.

Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are thoroughly refereed through a single-blind peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. Water is an international peer-reviewed open access monthly journal published by MDPI.

Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. The Article Processing Charge (APC) for publication in this open access journal is 1800 CHF (Swiss Francs). Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.

Keywords

  • Water resources management
  • policy analysis
  • decision-making
  • transformative change
  • social learning
  • multi-stakeholder collaboration
  • consensus building
  • trust and social cohesion
  • advanced ICT
  • gaming-simulation and serious games

Published Papers (13 papers)

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Editorial

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Open AccessEditorial
The Potential of Serious Games to Solve Water Problems: Editorial to the Special Issue on Game-Based Approaches to Sustainable Water Governance
Water 2019, 11(12), 2562; https://doi.org/10.3390/w11122562 - 05 Dec 2019
Cited by 2
Abstract
In this editorial, the authors (and guest editors) introduce the Special Issue titled Understanding Game-based Approaches for Improving Sustainable Water Governance: The Potential of Serious Games to Solve Water Problems. The authors take another look at the twelve contributions, starting from the subtitle [...] Read more.
In this editorial, the authors (and guest editors) introduce the Special Issue titled Understanding Game-based Approaches for Improving Sustainable Water Governance: The Potential of Serious Games to Solve Water Problems. The authors take another look at the twelve contributions, starting from the subtitle question: what is the potential? The authors summarize the insights and give directions for future research. Full article

Research

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Open AccessArticle
A Serious Game Designed to Explore and Understand the Complexities of Flood Mitigation Options in Urban–Rural Catchments
Water 2018, 10(12), 1885; https://doi.org/10.3390/w10121885 - 19 Dec 2018
Cited by 6
Abstract
Flood prevention in mixed urban–rural environments has become a greater concern due to climate change. It is a complex task requiring both efficient management of resources and the involvement of multiple stakeholders from diverse backgrounds. As Serious Games (games used for purposes other [...] Read more.
Flood prevention in mixed urban–rural environments has become a greater concern due to climate change. It is a complex task requiring both efficient management of resources and the involvement of multiple stakeholders from diverse backgrounds. As Serious Games (games used for purposes other than mere entertainment) have emerged as an effective means of engaging stakeholders, this work proposes a new Serious Game applied to flood mitigation in the village of Millbrook in the UK. Results show that the game has both an informative and a transformative effect (statistical significance levels from 0.01 to 0.05), improving participants’ understanding of the problem, and helping them to find a new and improved approach to flood risk management in Millbrook, with the potential to improve resilience significantly. Furthermore, the game successfully transformed participants into “citizen scientists” in the purest sense of the term—it led them to use inductive reasoning from data produced by the game to correctly confirm or reject hypotheses and resulted in more than 70% of the participants revising their initial assumptions. Interestingly, the game instigated the formation of new local partnerships and helped to prioritize the discussion of natural flood management measures in Millbrook Parish Council meetings. Full article
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Open AccessArticle
Serious Games as Planning Support Systems: Learning from Playing Maritime Spatial Planning Challenge 2050
Water 2018, 10(12), 1786; https://doi.org/10.3390/w10121786 - 05 Dec 2018
Cited by 7
Abstract
The inherent complexity of planning at sea, called maritime spatial planning (MSP), requires a planning approach where science (data and evidence) and stakeholders (their engagement and involvement) are integrated throughout the planning process. An increasing number of innovative planning support systems (PSS) in [...] Read more.
The inherent complexity of planning at sea, called maritime spatial planning (MSP), requires a planning approach where science (data and evidence) and stakeholders (their engagement and involvement) are integrated throughout the planning process. An increasing number of innovative planning support systems (PSS) in terrestrial planning incorporate scientific models and data into multi-player digital game platforms with an element of role-play. However, maritime PSS are still early in their innovation curve, and the use and usefulness of existing tools still needs to be demonstrated. Therefore, the authors investigate the serious game, MSP Challenge 2050, for its potential use as an innovative maritime PSS and present the results of three case studies on participant learning in sessions of game events held in Newfoundland, Venice, and Copenhagen. This paper focusses on the added values of MSP Challenge 2050, specifically at the individual, group, and outcome levels, through the promotion of the knowledge co-creation cycle. During the three game events, data was collected through participant surveys. Additionally, participants of the Newfoundland event were audiovisually recorded to perform an interaction analysis. Results from survey answers and the interaction analysis provide evidence that MSP Challenge 2050 succeeds at the promotion of group and individual learning by translating complex information to players and creating a forum wherein participants can share their thoughts and perspectives all the while (co-) creating new types of knowledge. Overall, MSP Challenge and serious games in general represent promising tools that can be used to facilitate the MSP process. Full article
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Open AccessArticle
Capacity Building for Water Management in Peri-Urban Communities, Bangladesh: A Simulation-Gaming Approach
Water 2018, 10(11), 1704; https://doi.org/10.3390/w10111704 - 21 Nov 2018
Cited by 8
Abstract
Peri-urban areas in the global south are experiencing over-exploitation and contamination of water resources as a result of rapid urbanisation. These problems relate to the ineffectiveness of the underlying institutions in this dynamic, multi-actor context. Institutions need to be considered during problem solving; [...] Read more.
Peri-urban areas in the global south are experiencing over-exploitation and contamination of water resources as a result of rapid urbanisation. These problems relate to the ineffectiveness of the underlying institutions in this dynamic, multi-actor context. Institutions need to be considered during problem solving; however, peri-urban communities have limited insight into their institutional context. This research examines the extent to which problem solving capacity can be improved through gaming-simulation methods. A game-based approach is tested in a capacity building workshop with peri-urban communities in Khulna (Bangladesh). A role-playing game designed from game theory models is used to examine local drinking water problems through an institutional lens. Workshop evaluation shows that through role-play, participants learned about strategies in drinking water supply (in both the current and future scenarios) and about the potential to address water quality issues through cooperative groundwater monitoring. Results also show improved problem understanding with regards to institutions, actor strategies, and problem-solving constraints. Participants valued the interactive medium for comparing and evaluating strategies. This paper highlights limitations in game design and its implementation, and offers ways to address this in future applications. Full article
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Open AccessArticle
Outstanding Videogames on Water: A Quality Assessment Review Based on Evidence of Narrative, Gameplay and Educational Criteria
Water 2018, 10(10), 1404; https://doi.org/10.3390/w10101404 - 09 Oct 2018
Cited by 3
Abstract
Videogames have become educational, communicative and social tools among the young, favouring the acquisition of skills, abilities and values, encompassing an endless number of themes, and helping them to experience and to face, in the first person, a great diversity of environmental situations [...] Read more.
Videogames have become educational, communicative and social tools among the young, favouring the acquisition of skills, abilities and values, encompassing an endless number of themes, and helping them to experience and to face, in the first person, a great diversity of environmental situations and ecology problems. Thus, the present article aims: (a) to evaluate a sample of 20 educational videogames about water, making use of some empirical criteria of quality; and (b) to design, validate and apply an integrated quality indicator of educational videogames on water, based on the aspects of narrative, gameplay and education, which allows us to obtain a ranking. The findings reflect a ranking of games allowing us to suggest that the nature of the game (simulation, adventures, platforms or questions) does not determine the quality of the game, although generally simulations and adventure games are placed in a range of medium- or high-quality, as well as those games that pursue objectives related to the design and management of a territory in a sustainable way. The paper provides teachers with quality criteria based on narrative and gameplay that complement and enrich the pedagogical dimension. Full article
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Open AccessArticle
Stakeholder Engagement in Maritime Spatial Planning: The Efficacy of a Serious Game Approach
Water 2018, 10(6), 724; https://doi.org/10.3390/w10060724 - 02 Jun 2018
Cited by 10
Abstract
The 2014 EU Directive on Maritime Spatial Planning (MSP) lays down obligations for the EU Member States to establish a maritime planning process, resulting in a maritime spatial plan by 2020. Consultation should be carried out with local, national and transnational stakeholders. Stakeholder [...] Read more.
The 2014 EU Directive on Maritime Spatial Planning (MSP) lays down obligations for the EU Member States to establish a maritime planning process, resulting in a maritime spatial plan by 2020. Consultation should be carried out with local, national and transnational stakeholders. Stakeholder engagement in MSP is complex because of the great number and diversity of maritime stakeholders and the unfamiliarity of some of these stakeholders with MSP and its potential impact. To facilitate stakeholder engagement in MSP, the ‘MSP Challenge’ table top strategy game was designed and played as part of several stakeholder events in different European countries. The authors study the efficacy of the game for stakeholder engagement. Background and evaluation data of nineteen game sessions with a total of 310 stakeholders with different backgrounds were collected through post-game surveys. Furthermore, the efficacy of the game for stakeholder engagement processes, organised by competent MSP authorities in Scotland and Belgium, is studied in more detail. The results show that the board game, overall, has been a very efficient and effective way of familiarising a great diversity of stakeholders with MSP and to create meaningful interaction and learning among stakeholders in formal planning processes. However, the case studies also show that contextual factors—the level of familiarity with MSP and participants’ perception to sustainability—influences the efficacy of the game. Full article
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Open AccessArticle
Exploring the Role of Relational Practices in Water Governance Using a Game-Based Approach
Water 2018, 10(3), 346; https://doi.org/10.3390/w10030346 - 20 Mar 2018
Cited by 7
Abstract
The growing complexity and interdependence of water management processes requires the involvement of multiple stakeholders in water governance. Multi-party collaboration is increasingly vital at both the strategy development and implementation levels. Multi-party collaboration involves a process of joint decision-making among key stakeholders in [...] Read more.
The growing complexity and interdependence of water management processes requires the involvement of multiple stakeholders in water governance. Multi-party collaboration is increasingly vital at both the strategy development and implementation levels. Multi-party collaboration involves a process of joint decision-making among key stakeholders in a problem domain directed towards the future of that domain. However, the common goal is not present from the beginning; rather, the common goal emerges during the process of collaboration. Unfortunately, when the conflicting interests of different actors are at stake, the large majority of environmental multi-party efforts often do not reliably deliver sustainable improvements to policy and/or practice. One of the reasons for this, which has been long established by many case studies, is that social learning with a focus on relational practices is missing. The purpose of this paper is to present the design and initial results of a pilot study that utilized a game-based approach to explore the effects of relational practices on the effectiveness of water governance. This paper verifies the methods used by addressing the following question: are game mechanisms, protocols for facilitation and observation, the recording of decisions and results, and participant surveys adequate to reliably test hypotheses about behavioral decisions related to water governance? We used the “Lords of the Valley” (LOV) game, which focuses on the local-level management of a hypothetical river valley involving many stakeholders. We used an observation protocol to collect data on the quality of relational practices and compared this data with the quantitative outcomes achieved by participants in the game. In this pilot study, we ran the game three times with different groups of participants, and here we provide the outcomes within the context of verifying and improving the methods. Full article
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Open AccessArticle
Experiential Learning through Role-Playing: Enhancing Stakeholder Collaboration in Water Safety Plans
Water 2018, 10(2), 227; https://doi.org/10.3390/w10020227 - 23 Feb 2018
Cited by 12
Abstract
Improved water safety management, as addressed by the Sustainable Development Goals, can be aided by Water Safety Planning, a risk-assessment and risk-management approach introduced by the World Health Organization and implemented to date in 93 countries around the globe. Yet, this approach still [...] Read more.
Improved water safety management, as addressed by the Sustainable Development Goals, can be aided by Water Safety Planning, a risk-assessment and risk-management approach introduced by the World Health Organization and implemented to date in 93 countries around the globe. Yet, this approach still encounters some challenges in practice, including that of securing collaboration among the broad range of stakeholders involved. This paper presents a role-playing game designed to foster stakeholder collaboration in Water Safety Plans (WSP). In this role-play, participants take on different stakeholders’ roles during a collective (team-based) decision-making process to improve water supply safety in a fictive town. The game is the result of a transdisciplinary initiative aimed at integrating knowledge across technical and governance aspects of WSPs into an active learning experience for water sector actors from diverse backgrounds. It exposes participants to the four phases of Kolb’s experiential learning cycle: concrete experience, reflective observation, conceptualization and active experimentation. This paper discusses potential impacts of the WSP role-play, including skills and knowledge development among participants, which can support cross-sectoral integration and dealing with complexity in decision-making. These are capacity assets strongly needed to address water safety management challenges in a sustainable way. Full article
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Open AccessEditor’s ChoiceArticle
Multi-Stakeholder Development of a Serious Game to Explore the Water-Energy-Food-Land-Climate Nexus: The SIM4NEXUS Approach
Water 2018, 10(2), 139; https://doi.org/10.3390/w10020139 - 01 Feb 2018
Cited by 21
Abstract
Water, energy, food, land and climate form a tightly-connected nexus in which actions on one sector impact other sectors, creating feedbacks and unanticipated consequences. This is especially because at present, much scientific research and many policies are constrained to single discipline/sector silos that [...] Read more.
Water, energy, food, land and climate form a tightly-connected nexus in which actions on one sector impact other sectors, creating feedbacks and unanticipated consequences. This is especially because at present, much scientific research and many policies are constrained to single discipline/sector silos that are often not interacting (e.g., water-related research/policy). However, experimenting with the interaction and determining how a change in one sector could impact another may require unreasonable time frames, be very difficult in practice and may be potentially dangerous, triggering any one of a number of unanticipated side-effects. Current modelling often neglects knowledge from practice. Therefore, a safe environment is required to test the potential cross-sectoral implications of policy decisions in one sector on other sectors. Serious games offer such an environment by creating realistic ‘simulations’, where long-term impacts of policies may be tested and rated. This paper describes how the ongoing (2016–2020) Horizon2020 project SIM4NEXUS will develop serious games investigating potential plausible cross-nexus implications and synergies due to policy interventions for 12 multi-scale case studies ranging from regional to global. What sets these games apart is that stakeholders and partners are involved in all aspects of the modelling definition and process, from case study conceptualisation, quantitative model development including the implementation and validation of each serious game. Learning from playing a serious game is justified by adopting a proof-of-concept for a specific regional case study in Sardinia (Italy). The value of multi-stakeholder involvement is demonstrated, and critical lessons learned for serious game development in general are presented. Full article
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Open AccessArticle
Models, Simulations and Games for Water Management: A Comparative Q-Method Study in The Netherlands and China
Water 2018, 10(1), 10; https://doi.org/10.3390/w10010010 - 24 Dec 2017
Cited by 9
Abstract
Abstract: How do policy analysts perceive the various roles that Models, Simulations and Games (MSG) have, or can have in Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM)? Fifty-five policy analysts in water management in The Netherlands and China were interviewed, following the procedure of the [...] Read more.
Abstract: How do policy analysts perceive the various roles that Models, Simulations and Games (MSG) have, or can have in Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM)? Fifty-five policy analysts in water management in The Netherlands and China were interviewed, following the procedure of the Q-method. Comparative analysis of the combined quantitative and qualitative data show that: (1) The debate on the role of MSG for IWRM is structured around five frames in The Netherlands and three frames in China. (2) The frames in The Netherlands and China are significantly different. (3) In China, there is a predominant frame that perceives MSG for IWRM as data driven simulation technology for rationalization of water management, which is less significant in The Netherlands. (4) The reverse is true with regard to MSG for stakeholder interaction, learning and integrated assessment, which are significant frames in The Netherlands, but not in China. The conclusion is that frame differences can easily confuse professional and academic debate about MSG for water management; within the same institutional and cultural context, but even more so in Netherlands–China co-operation projects. Frames are also relevant when designing, using or evaluating innovative methods for integrated water resources management. Full article
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Review

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Open AccessReview
Towards a Framework for Designing and Assessing Game-Based Approaches for Sustainable Water Governance
Water 2019, 11(4), 869; https://doi.org/10.3390/w11040869 - 25 Apr 2019
Cited by 3
Abstract
Most of the literature on serious games and gamification calls for a shift from evaluating practices to using theories to assess them. While the former is necessary to justify using game-based approaches, the latter enables understanding “why” game-based approaches are beneficial (or not). [...] Read more.
Most of the literature on serious games and gamification calls for a shift from evaluating practices to using theories to assess them. While the former is necessary to justify using game-based approaches, the latter enables understanding “why” game-based approaches are beneficial (or not). Based on earlier review papers and the papers in this special issue of Water entitled “Understanding game-based approaches for improving sustainable water governance: the potential of serious games to solve water problems”, we show that game-based approaches in a water governance context are relatively diverse. In particular, the expected aims, targeted audience, and spatial and temporal scales are factors that differentiate game-based approaches. These factors also strongly influence the design of game-based approaches and the research developed to assess them. We developed a framework to guide and reflect on the design and assessment of game-based approaches, and we suggest opportunities for future research. In particular, we highlight the lack of game-based approaches that can support “society-driven” sustainable water governance. Full article
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Open AccessReview
Socio-Psychological Perspectives on the Potential for Serious Games to Promote Transcendental Values in IWRM Decision-Making
Water 2018, 10(8), 1097; https://doi.org/10.3390/w10081097 - 17 Aug 2018
Cited by 5
Abstract
Modern day challenges of water resource management involve difficult decision-making in the face of increasing complexity and uncertainty. However, even if all decision-makers possessed perfect knowledge, water management decisions ultimately involve competing values, which will only get more prominent with increasing scarcity and [...] Read more.
Modern day challenges of water resource management involve difficult decision-making in the face of increasing complexity and uncertainty. However, even if all decision-makers possessed perfect knowledge, water management decisions ultimately involve competing values, which will only get more prominent with increasing scarcity and competition over resources. Therefore, an important normative goal for water management is long-term cooperation between stakeholders. According to the principles of integrated water resource management (IWRM), this necessitates that managerial decisions support social equity and intergenerational equity (social equity that spans generations). The purpose of this discussion is to formulate preliminary recommendations for the design of serious games (SGs), a potential learning tool that may give rise to shared values and engage stakeholders with conflicting interests to cooperate towards a common goal. Specifically, this discussion explores whether SGs could promote values that transcend self-interest (transcendental values), based on the contributions of social psychology. The discussion is organized in the following way. First, an introduction is provided as to why understanding values from psychological perspectives is both important for water management and a potential avenue for learning in SGs. Second, a review of the description of values and mechanisms of value change from the field of social psychology is presented. This review highlights key psychological constraints to learning or applying values. Based on this review, recommendations are made for SGs designers to consider when developing games for water management, in order to promote transcendental values. Overall, the main conclusions from exploring the potential of value change for IWRM through SGs design are as follows: 1-SGs design needs to consider how all values change systematically; 2-SGs design should incorporate the many value conflicts that are faced in real life water management, 3-SGs could potentially promote learning by having players reflect on the reasoning behind value priorities across water management situations, and 4-value change ought to be tested in an iterative SGs design process using the Schwartz’s Value Survey (SVS) (or something akin to it). Full article
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Other

Open AccessConcept Paper
Conceptualizing Serious Games as a Learning-Based Intervention in the Context of Natural Resources and Environmental Governance
Water 2019, 11(2), 245; https://doi.org/10.3390/w11020245 - 31 Jan 2019
Cited by 9
Abstract
The use of serious games in the governance of natural resources and the environment is progressively increasing and includes games used for research and data collection, teaching and training, and fostering a change of practices. However, this diversity remains underexplored and underreported. In [...] Read more.
The use of serious games in the governance of natural resources and the environment is progressively increasing and includes games used for research and data collection, teaching and training, and fostering a change of practices. However, this diversity remains underexplored and underreported. In view of a growing interest in the use of serious games in natural resource and environmental governance, the absence of discussions about how differences in intended use and delivery influence the performance, assessment, and outcomes of games is problematic. Here we present an inventory, and a description, of such different uses then, by focusing on serious games used as interventions, we discuss when, and how, games could be used to generate learning and social learning. To that end we use a narrative review of selected literature, and insight from research on social learning, to develop an inventory of game use, and within that inventory we conceptualize the use of serious games as a social learning intervention. Also, by means of an illustrative case of a serious game (developed as part of the Assessing the Learning Effects of Games on Attitude of Stakeholders toward Sustainable Shrimp Farming – ALEGAMS research project) we reflect on a few key aspects of game use. We suggest that developing a serious game needs several iterations and, although the learning outcomes can be assessed, the impact of games aiming at changes in current practice and policy will likely fall beyond the timespan of usual project periods. This is something future research should consider as it has implications for the research design and methodology. Full article
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