DNC2020 Special Session ‘Learning through Serious Games’

  • 2020/06/26     Vienna, Austria

    As part of the virtual Dresden Nexus Conference 2020, SIM4NEXUS and UNU-FLORES co-organised the special session ‘Learning through Serious Games – Play and learn about the water-energy-food-land-and-climate nexus interactions!’ The organisers share their insights from the well-attended session, originally published by SIM4NEXUS here.

    By Stefania Munaretto (SIM4NEXUS), Lisa Andrews (SIM4NEXUS), and Serena Caucci (UNU-FLORES)

    Exploring the interlinkages between water, energy, food, land, and climate is now the key to achieve Sustainable Development. The third edition of the Dresden Nexus Conference 2020 (DNC2020) held on June 3-5, 2020 on “Circular Economy in a Sustainable Society” provided the platform to foster clear dialogues between Nexus thinking experts and to expand the policy-making activities related to the interlinkages between resources and productivity for an integrated management of natural resources.

    With over 1200 registered participants from 100 countries, the conference hosted a special session on playing serious games organised by Stefania Munaretto and Lisa Andrews (KWR Water Research Institute) in cooperation with Floor Brouwer (WUR Wageningen Economic Research) and Serena Caucci (United Nations University UNU-FLORES). The purpose of the session was for participants to experience playing a Serious Games as a means for learning about nexus interlinkages in specific regions, and thereby reflecting on sustainable resource management issues in an interactive manner.

    During the session, participants could play the SIM4NEXUS serious game. SIM4NEXUS is a European Horizon 2020 project that delivered a cloud-based integrated tool for testing and evaluating policy decisions over 30+ years, all built into a serious game (alpha version of the game online here). The game highlights the impacts of resource use and relevant policies on agriculture, water, energy, land use and climate through a model-based analysis using real data from selected case studies at regional, national and transboundary scales.

    Overall, about 150 people showed interest in the special session on serious gaming, and more than 70 played the game. The programme included an introduction to serious gaming, illustration of the SIM4NEXUS serious game and its functionalities, and illustration of the Greek case study used for playing. Participants then played the game in small groups for 45 minutes with the support of a facilitator. Last part of the session was dedicated to feedback sharing on the learning experience and real-world implications.

    Participant’s feedback on the serious game session was very positive. Although the short playing time, participants’ feedback demonstrated that learning occurred through the serious game, and many saw opportunities for use in their work and for communicating and training stakeholders and policy-makers on complex nexus interlinkages.

    Participant Quotes

    “I think this tool can be useful while preparing multi-stakeholder dialogues on water-energy-climate, so stakeholders are more aware of the effects of their decisions.”  – Participant

    “I found [the] nexus serious game very insightful. It helped me to observe the interdisciplinary concepts and how policies affect at regional and national regions.” – Participant

    “I am interested in using the game within the post-graduate trainings in environmental management…” – Participant

    Training the Serious Gamers of the Future

    The next phase of the SIM4NEXUS project is to roll out training packages for universities, organisations and policymakers, either for demonstration purposes, half or full-day trainings, as well as training for facilitators. With the serious game trainings, beginner groups of stakeholders or scholars could improve their understanding of the interlinkages between the 5 sectors mentioned above, while expert audiences would engage in more complex conversations on policies effectiveness and their implementation to address cross-sectoral synergies and trade-offs. Through “serious gaming”, players experience and learn firsthand the complexities of policy-making and reflect on how this new knowledge would impact their real-world decisions.

    Follow SIM4NEXUS on the project website or Twitter. Also, do not hesitate to contact Lisa or Stefania if you are interested in trainings for your organisation, students or institute. We are happy to work with you!

    Find the flyer here.