Under the title “Downpour!” Geographer Jana Wendler developed an exciting city game in Manchester. This is the first time that most of the players have even dealt with climate change in their immediate environment
As is well known, climate change is an unattractive thing that triggers negative feelings – and which one is therefore happy to ignore. A socially constructed silence spreads around the topic. In view of this starting point, what could be more obvious than approaching the seriousness of the topic from the opposite side, that is, from the game? Manchester geographer Jana Wendler tried it out – with a city game for adults.
Climate Change – the Video Game
The so-called street game approach is becoming increasingly popular because adults solve all kinds of tasks. Sometimes they hunt zombies, sometimes they have to do a kind of scavenger hunt in the electronically networked city of the future. With these games in public space, they not only practice one of the most basic forms of expression in human culture – but they also set out to discover new references in the midst of the built environment. Just playful. The trend is so popular that PlayPublic was already an urban games festival sponsored by the German Federal Cultural Foundation in Berlin.
Captivating game idea: avert a flood as an urban crisis manager
What is fun with zombies is also easy to achieve with climate change – as the project by Jana Wendler shows. In any case, the fun of the game can be seen by the protagonists who set out in this video as civil protection officers to set up an emergency plan for flood protection. Downpour! (English for cloudburst) is the name of the city game, in which five participants slip into the role of urban crisis managers. “Imagine: It has been raining for four days and the river banks are already collapsing,” is the captivating initial scenario. “The flood risk is high – and you and your team will be sent to avert the crisis. Can you save the city?”
The five-hour Manchester Flood Risk Advisor’s round of play, which lasts only about an hour, begins in a “situation center” where they have to decide which part of the city they want to protect with dams. Then it is a matter of measuring the water level at the nearest river. Finally, private landowners must be persuaded to flood their meadows to protect the city. Finally, there is a debriefing with the city mayor (represented by an actor) with the order to develop a flood prevention program.
The winner is whoever develops the best flood protection concept
The concept ideas developed by the participants then met reality in the future, so to speak: whose proposals actually protect Manchester best from the heavy rain that can be expected in the course of climate change, the game has won. “Two-thirds of the teams” won “, ie saved Manchester,” Jana Wendler remembers the rounds of Downpour developed for the Manchester Science Festival! “But there were also groups with high scores that were simply unlucky and ended up having a very strong storm.”
The advantages of street gaming as a form of communication are obvious: As with classic strategy games, the players deal with complex situations and scenarios; the realistic reference to the (possible) present increases the playful appeal. At the same time, the whole person is in demand, because in addition to the cognitive level, social interaction and sensual experiences also come into play. The scent of the big city, the sound of asphalt, the stony reality of urban space – all have a direct effect. Perhaps the most important aspect of the gaming method has to do with slipping into other roles: Passive viewers of climate change become actors. The players experience a moment of self-efficacy – a key term in modern didactics.
For the first time ever, many players were made aware of climate change
However, what is supposed to be enjoyable requires serious and intensive preparation. “It starts with months of research,” says Wendler. The game can only succeed if it follows realistic framework conditions. “To do this, we looked at previous flood and heavy rain events interviewed experts and researchers, and interviewed those affected.” The preparation apparently paid off: 73 percent of the participants in the Downpour! Game in Manchester stated in an evaluation that they had “learned something”. Even 85 percent were concerned with climate change in their city for the first time thanks to the game.
Looking for other games that involve a lot of thinking? You have to play the Rise of Kingdoms. Check this website for more details. Indeed, the game will require a lot of thinking.