The Marine Ecosystem Services Game

Type of Game: 
Tabletop game (e.g., board game, card game, printouts)
Target Audience: 
Conservation and management professionals
University and graduate students

The Marine Ecosystem Services Game was designed to enable the understanding of ecosystem services concepts through a role-playing simulation where interactions typical of the negotiation process that take place around the use of natural resources and their benefits were recreated.

To robustly reproduce the key aspects and interactions of a real marine and coastal area, the simulation setting and information were built through a literature review on key Mediterranean coastal and marine ecosystems, on the human activities that benefit from the ecosystem services they provide, and which can have a positive or negative impact on their provisioning capacity. Specific attention was given to spatial aspects, such as the distance at which a specific human activity can negatively affect an ecosystem, or the specific areas where human activities benefit of ecosystem services (e.g. recreational activities as scuba diving). All these elements contributed to the realistic management of the fictional area of the simulation.

The Marine Ecosystem Services Game was played in five teams composed by an approximately equal number of students. Each team of students represented a stakeholder from a different sector (a character), namely: artisanal fishery, renewable energy, eco-tourism, and marine protection; one team played as policy makers. Following a general introduction by a facilitator, represented by one of the teachers, specific material was distributed to students in the form of paper sheets. Such material enabled each team to get an overview of the fictional area where the simulation is set, and to receive specific information on their profiles, their characters’ objectives and constrains, as well as their financial resources in the form of a mock currency. Based on this information, each team was challenged to find the most effective way to achieve their objectives and develop their activity. In order to achieve their goal, the teams were asked to discuss internally and negotiate with other teams to arrange specific ‘‘deals”. It is worth noting that this role-playing simulation was thought to allow real stakeholders to play to develop a further understanding of the coastal and marine ecosystem services negotiation process.

Learn more about the game and how it has been used here.

Contact: Mr. Federico Fabbri, ffabbri [at]; Dr. Elena Gissi, egissi [at]