Historically, games were a means for young people to learn critical survival skills. In recent decades, however, games have come to be viewed as simply a source of entertainment. A recent movement – “serious gaming” – is now revitalizing the idea that games can do a lot more than just entertain. It is showing that they can be a powerful tool for teaching, engaging stakeholders, conducting research, and evaluating public policy. For instance, serious games can:
- Help players better understand complex topics and the interests of a wide variety of groups, promoting thinking about systems as a whole
- Let players experiment with and see the consequences of different choices over time, promoting longer-term thinking
- Create a high level of engagement with the public, potentially at lower cost than other more traditional engagement activities
- Help policymakers and researchers understand stakeholder decision making and the way stakeholders may respond to a variety of policy choices.
This month The Skimmer has compiled information about role-playing/simulation games designed to educate stakeholders, professionals, students, and the general public about aspects of coastal and marine conservation, management, and adaptation. These serious games allow players to experiment with coastal and marine conservation, management, and adaptation actions (or inaction) to help players, researchers, and policymakers better understand how coastal and marine ecosystems (including resource users and human communities) work. We also interview a range of game developers about their experiences using their games in the field.