Games for Geoscience


Games for Geoscience
Convener: Christopher Skinner | Co-conveners: Rolf Hut, Sam Illingworth, Elizabeth Lewis, Jazmin Scarlett
vPICO presentations
| Wed, 28 Apr, 14:15–15:00 (CEST)

vPICO presentations: Wed, 28 Apr

David Crookall, Isabel Caballero-Leiva, Laksh Sharma, Pimnutcha Promduangsri, and Pariphat Promduangsri

Modern, educational simulation/games (s/g) have a rich legacy, stretching back to the 1960s.  They are used today for communicating science in educational, environmental or governmental organizations.  Other uses are to help groups and organizations conduct research, solve complex problems or make collective decisions.

Over the last two decades, a particularly powerful, but underused, form of s/g has developed, called participatory simulation (PS).  It contains (elements of) game, simulation, role-play, experience, human interaction, decision-making, negotiation, engagement, stakeholder, etc.  It is often large scale, open ended, goal and results oriented, free form and data driven.  Of course, debriefing is a crucial component.

Last summer (2020), the International Oceans-Climate School (IOCS), of the Ocean Open University (OOP), France, planned to organize an in-person summer school with a PS as its capstone event.  We then postponed and made it an autumn school.  It then became clear that this also was impossible, and so, after some hesitation, we scrambled to turn it into an online PS (OPS).

The theme was “The Mediterranean and climate change: Impacts, people, action”.  Our overarching goal was to help participants understand the oceans-climate nexus and to become better ocean-climate-literate stakeholders.  The IOCS was an official event of the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC) of UNESCO, as part of the UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development.

The school ran over three days, with the OPS over two days.  We searched for a platform that would accommodate the flexibility needed for the OPS; we chose Discord.  We had participants originating from Brazil, France, India, Italy, Iran, Spain, Tunisia and the UK; ages ranged from 19 to 60 years.  It was a great success.  A detailed, online feedback form two weeks after the event collected participants’ opinions, including:

  • “It was a wonderful experience.”, :I felt very good with all the participants.”, “When I describe the experience to friends I always say that it was something really useful for my personal and professional growth.”, “It was a very enriching experience for me to meet all these people with different training and knowledge, coming from different countries.”, “Enriching moments, so much more to discover.”, “What a great experience! I felt happy, engaged and surrounded by beautiful minds.”

We will run the event again in the Spring and the late summer or autumn, with different geoscience themes.  The success of the October 2020 event raises several research questions, including:

  • How do the online and the in-person versions compare?
  • What are the advantages and drawbacks of each?
  • Which is more effective for what objectives and what results?
  • How do the two versions stack up in regard to conducting research on such events?
  • What are the implications of OPS for geoliteracy?

Our presentation will describe the event in more detail, offer tentative answers to the above questions, and help you decide if you wish to participate in the next event.  Co-authors include both organizers and participants.

How to cite: Crookall, D., Caballero-Leiva, I., Sharma, L., Promduangsri, P., and Promduangsri, P.: The Mediterranean and climate change: An online participatory simulation – Results from the front lines, EGU General Assembly 2021, online, 19–30 Apr 2021, EGU21-1377, https://doi.org/10.5194/egusphere-egu21-1377, 2021.

Christina C. Roggatz and Christopher J. Skinner

Ocean acidification is often referred to as climate change’s hidden evil twin. As the world’s oceans partly absorb the carbon dioxide that humans are pumping into the planet’s atmosphere, the oceans’ pH decreases, making the water more acidic. This comes with a range of negative consequences, one of them being the recently uncovered impairment of the sense of smell of marine animals like fishes and crabs.

Awareness of ocean acidification, including its impacts on marine life, however, is low amongst the public. It is something that is viewed as remote to peoples’ lives, happening a long distance away and not for a long time into the future. It is important we take action now as a society to curb climate change and reduce the potential impacts of ocean acidification. Raising awareness and helping to make an emotional connection to the issue is a first step on this journey.

In Crabby’s Reef we use the power of gaming to enable players to experience the impact of this invisible and abstract process of ocean acidification. Inspired by classic arcade games, it puts players into the metaphorical shoes of Crabby, the crab. They navigate daily life on the ocean floor, guiding Crabby through the maze-like reef, seeking food and avoiding predatory octopuses who would make Crabby dinner. With each new level, you are transported to a more acidic future, your senses dampened by blurring the screen, reflecting Crabby’s loss of ability to smell the food.

With life getting harder, we ask how long can you survive?

Play the game here - https://seriousgeo.games/activities/crabbysreef/

How to cite: Roggatz, C. C. and Skinner, C. J.: Crabby’s Reef - Using games to bring people closer to the issue of ocean acidification, EGU General Assembly 2021, online, 19–30 Apr 2021, EGU21-2956, https://doi.org/10.5194/egusphere-egu21-2956, 2021.

Marleen de Ruiter, Anaïs Couasnon, and Philip Ward

The increased complexity of disaster risk due to climate change, expected population growth and the increasing interconnectedness of disaster impacts across communities and economic sectors, require Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) measures and practitioners that are better able to address these complexities. Nonetheless, in the traditional risk paradigm, there is a strong focus on single-hazards and the risk faced by individual communities and sectors.

Breaking the Silos is a narrator-led, role-playing game designed to support decision makers and stakeholders in understanding and managing the complexities of implementing DRR measures in a multi-(hazard) risk setting. The game starts in de aftermath of a (randomly selected) disaster. The different roles include key decision-makers and stakeholders of a country. The team is responsible for the post-disaster recovery process and can decide to implement DRR measures. However, while some of these DRR measures can decrease risk of one hazard, they can increase the risk of another hazard. In each subsequent round, the team faces another (randomly selected) disaster. Unlike many other risk serious games, Breaking the Silos includes many random factors to better simulate reality. The roles are designed such that expert knowledge and objectives are spread throughout the participants and they can even be conflicting at times.

The game was successfully launched during the World Bank’s 2020 Understanding Risk conference. Before and after playing the game, participants were asked to complete surveys asking them about their perception of the challenges of Disaster Risk Management and whether the game raised their awareness of these challenges. The preliminary findings indicate that Breaking the Silos is a useful tool in supporting decision makers and practitioners to become aware of (the risks of) hazard-silo thinking and possible (a)synergies of DRR measures.

How to cite: de Ruiter, M., Couasnon, A., and Ward, P.: Breaking The Silos: an online and narrator-led role-playing game for multi-risk DRR management, EGU General Assembly 2021, online, 19–30 Apr 2021, EGU21-4938, https://doi.org/10.5194/egusphere-egu21-4938, 2021.

Robert-Jan den Haan, Mascha van der Voort, Fedor Baart, Koen Berends, and Suzanne Hulscher

Environmental decision-making concerns application of (multiple) interventions to pursue various objectives and address pressing challenges. Such decision-making is challenging as it includes evaluating the interventions’ effects on different spatial and temporal scales, weighing their inevitable trade-offs, and considering the different stakes at the table. To explore available interventions and their effects, games offer players environments that are inviting, interactive and immersive, and provide a sense of safety to experiment. These qualities make games interesting tools to engage stakeholders and support collaborative decision-making. However, to effectively accomplish this, it is necessary to tailor a game to the various types of stakeholders, who have different backgrounds and levels of expertise.

We present the Virtual River Game, a serious game that challenges players to manage a schematized stretch of a Dutch river. In the game, players freely design and test typical Dutch river interventions. To experience the interventions’ effects, the players’ scores on flood safety, biodiversity, and costs are updated with each tested design. While developing the game, we focused on how to facilitate discussion and collaboration between domain experts – e.g. hydraulic engineers and flood safety specialists – and non-experts – e.g. local residents and farmers. To accommodate domain experts, including real-world engineering models in the game was key to offer credibility to the river interventions’ in-game effects. At the same time, to enable active participation of non-experts, including such models should not make the game too overwhelming. As a solution, we developed an augmented game board, combining the computational power of computer games with the low-threshold and attractiveness of board games. The board has a hexagonal grid of 143 tiles that are always filled with modular game pieces, which combined determine each tile’s elevation and land use. Players replace game pieces on the board to apply interventions, changing the elevation or land use or both of chosen tiles. An automatic conversion of the board’s layout updates the game’s digital elevation model and land use distribution that serve as input for a hydrodynamic, ecological, and cost model. Grounded in tangible interaction, players are provided with a perceptual coupling between their actions and the computed effects by visualizing spatially explicit model output on the board through projection. Additional model output is accessible to players on a separate monitor.

Both domain experts and non-experts played the game in multiple sessions, with experts playing an in-game role not corresponding to their day-to-day professional role. After playing the game, both experts and non-experts indicated that they enjoyed playing it and that they gained new insights about both river management and the other players at the table. In particular, non-experts mostly (strongly) agreed with statements on learning in the post-game questionnaire. Moreover, observations of the sessions and feedback from players indicated that experts complemented the game’s feedback with their domain-specific knowledge, explaining for example the principles (i.e. the physics) that are applied in river management to non-experts. We conclude that the Virtual River Game’s hybrid set-up has substantial value by enabling discussion and collaboration between experts and non-experts.

How to cite: den Haan, R.-J., van der Voort, M., Baart, F., Berends, K., and Hulscher, S.: Designing the Virtual River Game to support the collaborative exploration of river interventions, EGU General Assembly 2021, online, 19–30 Apr 2021, EGU21-5430, https://doi.org/10.5194/egusphere-egu21-5430, 2021.

Julia Ehses, Gerold Zeilinger, Marcel Hefner, Stefanie Uhde, Francesco Belli, Florian König, and David Schornsheim

In the event of a natural disaster, local authorities often have to rely on limited experience and sporadic training to make important and lifesaving decisions. This increases the stress levels of the workforce involved in the response effort and can result in an inaccurate assessment of the situation with potentially catastrophic consequences. oKat-SIM aims to support local administrative offices in natural disaster situations by providing augmented reality (AR)-based training to public authorities in order to increase geohazard awareness and improve associated responses. Our initial focus is on possible flood and landslide scenarios in three different regions of Germany: the lowlands of Görlitz, urbanized Leverkusen, and the mountainous Garmisch-Partenkirchen region. These scenarios are based on state-of-the-art modelling of realistic, cascading natural disaster events and incorporate environmental parameters such as precipitation, high-resolution topography, and examples from past events. Together with local partners, we are developing training simulations adapted to the threats posed by natural disasters in each of the study areas. We use the Unity game engine to translate GIS-based data and modeling results into the AR simulation environment. AR training immerses the participants in realistic states of emergency while maintaining direct communications, which results in safer and more rapid decision making that will ultimately protect communities from natural disasters. The success of the training will be evaluated by cognitive science methods including measuring the learning effect under different stress levels. These measurements will be used to modify the training environment to achieve optimal learning results.

How to cite: Ehses, J., Zeilinger, G., Hefner, M., Uhde, S., Belli, F., König, F., and Schornsheim, D.: oKat-SIM – An Interdisciplinary Research Project to Optimize Natural Disaster Management Using Augmented Reality, EGU General Assembly 2021, online, 19–30 Apr 2021, EGU21-5860, https://doi.org/10.5194/egusphere-egu21-5860, 2021.

Eleonora Cogo, Silvio Gualdi, Mauro Buonocore, and Selvaggia Santin

Although the topic of climate change has gained more prominence in recent years, many people still struggle to understand the complex and widespread implications that it is likely to have on almost every sector of our society and natural environment.

Climate change is a complex issue. The physical process that regulates the feedbacks and interactions of the Earth System’s components are complicated, the consequences for society and ecosystems are extensive, as too are the implications for the economy. Many effects are not yet fully understood and are difficult to envisage.

Improving climate literacy and the public’s understanding about the causes and consequences of climate change are important to increasing civic participation and engagement. They are necessary for the deep and systemic transformation needed to create resilient and zero carbon societies, in line with the Paris Agreement goals.

Videogames have been identified as an ideal means through which to represent complexity, simulating different scenarios and testing alternative paths. ‘Change Game’ was developed by the CMCC Foundation, with a view to representing the climate system and its interactions with society and with natural ecosystems. The game was designed to be scientifically grounded, but also engaging and entertaining. 

A simplified model was developed to establish the game’s values, which covered energy and water consumption, historical GHG emissions by sectors, scenarios to reach net zero emissions, technological solutions, climate impacts, etc.

The player is put in charge of the growth and development of a city on a planet inhabited by a pre-set number of players (5-30) who are also developing their own cities. They have to provide energy, water and food to satisfy their population’s needs, build manufacturing and services industries, manage their resources, trade them with other players, invest in research, education and entertainment, and care for the health, happiness and prosperity of their community.

However, the higher the emissions that all the players on the same planet generate, the greater the challenges they will face. These include heat waves, droughts, floods, rising sea levels or the spread of new diseases.   
The activities in the game are organised within 9 macro categories: houses, factories (steel, cement, sawmill, food factories), services (school, university, hospital, mall, museum, sports center, trading center, warehouse), mines (rock, mineral, rare elements), agriculture (crops, livestock and fish), forestry (forest, ancient forest, land and marine protected areas), energy (fossil fuel, hydroelectric, solar, wind, offshore wind, tidal, nuclear, biofuel, batteries), water (well, aqueduct, water reservoir, desalination plant), negative emissions technologies.

Through education players can learn to promote sustainable behaviors which affect resource consumption as well as the growth and happiness of their populations. Investment in research determines access to more advanced technological solutions and buildings aimed at reducing GHG emissions or increasing resilience to climate change effects.               

Finally, players can interact with neighboring cities on the same planet in the multiplayer environment through trade, climate strikes, corruption attacks and fake news.

Change Game is freely available as an app for Android and IOS mobiles.

How to cite: Cogo, E., Gualdi, S., Buonocore, M., and Santin, S.: Introducing the complexity of climate change through a videogame: Change Game – Play with the Planet, EGU General Assembly 2021, online, 19–30 Apr 2021, EGU21-6454, https://doi.org/10.5194/egusphere-egu21-6454, 2021.

Tom Raimondo, Justin Payne, Alicia Pollett, Steve Hill, and Roger Edmonds

Project LIVE (Learning through Immersive Virtual Environments) is a cross-disciplinary initiative at the University of South Australia to embed immersive virtual and mixed reality experiences across the breadth of our STEM teaching program. In Earth and Environmental Science, the Project LIVE team has recently created a series of gamified geo-challenges and virtual tours of instructive field sites for use in undergraduate teaching, to both supplement and enhance traditional field experiences. This presentation will demonstrate our flagship geo-challenge developed for the Hallett Cove Geological Heritage Site in Adelaide, South Australia. Entitled Beyond the Ice, it incorporates several complementary elements including an immersive VR experience, web-based geotour, iOS and Android mobile learning game and 360 street view walking trail, all of which are freely available at https://www.projectlive.org.au/beyond-the-ice. The interactive VR quest challenges students to identify fossils with a virtual hand lens, measure glacial striations with a compass, and draw the outlines of rock folds and sedimentary layers that shape the landscape with digital ink. Students are also accompanied by the encyclopaedic ‘VT’ – a virtual robot guide with a geological memory spanning 600 million years – and can take part in quizzes, collect 3D pet rocks, and even uncover hidden ‘Easter eggs’ on their journey of scientific discovery. The uptake and impact of our geo-challenges across both undergraduate student cohorts and STEM outreach audiences will be discussed, along with further geoscience and community engagement opportunities currently being explored.

How to cite: Raimondo, T., Payne, J., Pollett, A., Hill, S., and Edmonds, R.: Gamified geo-challenges for immersive learning, EGU General Assembly 2021, online, 19–30 Apr 2021, EGU21-8131, https://doi.org/10.5194/egusphere-egu21-8131, 2021.

Valeria Misiti, Daniela Riposati, Francesca Di Laura, Patrizia Battelli, and Massimo Crescimbene

One of the primary activity of the Istituto Nazionale di Geofisica e Vulcanologia (INGV) is the production of resources concerning educational and outreach projects in geophysics and natural hazard topics. This activity is aimed at transferring, periodically, results at the forefront of ongoing research to the public through an intense and comprehensive plan for scientific dissemination. Over the past few years, much attention has also been devoted to the production of scientific games or edu-games, which is an efficient combination of educational content and playful communicative aspects, designed with the aim of letting children and youngsters learn while having fun. It has been demonstrated, in fact, that learning through games and, in this case, through drawing stimulates further contacts in the brain and is therefore simpler for both people with disabilities but also for those without.

In the last two years we presented two games (Escape Volcano and GeoTrivial) and, in light of the achieved success, we decided to propose a new game: VISUAL GEOGAME. Is a revisited Visual game based on earth sciences considered in its entirety (i.e. geology, seismology, volcanology, space earth etc.etc.)

The main purpose was to create a game which might be specifically dedicated to students requiring learning support: hence the choice of the Visual Game. Scholastic inclusion is very important especially in this period during which the use of technology overrides human contact. The drawing is a quick learning method and, above all the team games are essential for inclusion of people with disabilities.

The game is very simple: participants are divided into teams of at least 2 people for a maximum of 4 teams. Tokens are placed face down on the billboard and each has a different score signed on.

Each team must choose a marker and place it into starting box. They draw a card from the deck and on the basis of the category repredented on the card they have to draw it. There are 3 categories: 1) glossary (move 1 position); 2) tools of the trade (move 2 position); 3) places (move 3 position). If the team guess the draw, the will move as much as is the category score and keep the token.

Morover, on the billboard there are bonus boxes. Is the team fall in one of it they have to draw an action. If the guess they can decide to back an opponent team of their choice.


How to cite: Misiti, V., Riposati, D., Di Laura, F., Battelli, P., and Crescimbene, M.: VISUAL GEOGAME: if you can draw it, you can learn it, EGU General Assembly 2021, online, 19–30 Apr 2021, EGU21-9950, https://doi.org/10.5194/egusphere-egu21-9950, 2021.

Kewan Mertens and Gina Delima

The disaster risk reduction (DRR) community tends to treat disasters and risk in a managerial and technocratic way, thereby disregarding the highly political nature of DRR. An alternative epistemology of disasters, as matters of concern, is proposed and tested. Mobilizing concepts from Chantal Mouffe and Bruno Latour, this paper illustrates how DRR can be transformed into a public issue. It is argued that education and policy making on DRR would benefit from a recognition of the hybrid nature of disasters. A serious game is used to test proposed epistemology. The board game simulates political decision making on the reduction of risks due to floods and landslides in West Uganda. It is hypothesized that the game can generate an ideal speech scenario that fosters discussions among players and possibly even creates a space of political confrontation. Discussions during ten gameplays in South-West Uganda have been recorded and transcribed. Participants effectively experience affects, power relations and confrontations during the game, but a call for consensus and technical solutions are sometimes used to prematurely close the discussions and move on with concrete solutions. Insights from this paper contribute to understanding why DRR is frequently treated as a technical issue in local and international disaster governance. Proposed epistemology and approaches are expected to stimulate innovative experiments towards a more political approach of DRR education and policy.

How to cite: Mertens, K. and Delima, G.: (Re)politicizing disaster governance: Simulating Conflicting Interests Over Matters of Concern By Means Of A Board Game, EGU General Assembly 2021, online, 19–30 Apr 2021, EGU21-10668, https://doi.org/10.5194/egusphere-egu21-10668, 2021.

Lev Horodyskyj and Tara Lennon

Environmental crises will overwhelmingly impact Millennials and Generation Z.  Most are aware of this reality and enthusiastic about finding and promoting community and policy solutions.  However, many youths also lack the communication and collaboration skills necessary to implement change in their communities.  The Greenworks program is a collaboration between Science Voices (a nonprofit focused on improving science education) and a political science course at Arizona State University (ASU).  Teachers and students from the University of the Virgin Islands (US), Khairun University (Indonesia), and University of Campinas (Brazil) are currently involved in on-going pilot projects as well.  The program provides space for students to practice deliberation and policy-making in an online role-playing game and then implement their own proposal to address an environmental problem in their community.

In the Greenworks program, students complete a short curriculum on geoscience and governance, engage in a role-playing diplomacy game to resolve environmental issues in a fictitious world, and then implement a community project to effect change in the real world.  ASU students participate as part of an online political science course formally offered by ASU.  Students and faculty mentors at other universities are recruited by Science Voices and complete custom curricula and community projects.  As part of the role-playing game that all students participate in, students are assigned to fictitious nations and address analogous real-world environmental and political challenges through diplomacy between nations with various competing objectives.  Challenges vary from semester to semester and include trade relations, climate change, plastic pollution, pandemics, and deforestation.  Through communication channels like Slack and Discord, students share their personal experiences on these topics and collaborate on related policy options.  Students enrolled through Science Voices also develop proposals to address local problems of importance and are provided with crowdfunded grants and materials to implement their proposal.

We will describe the program in more detail, discuss the experiences of our students, and the results of the first community projects.  We will additionally discuss developing this program as a collaborative space for students from the Global North and South to partner and co-mentor each other in developing local solutions to global challenges.

How to cite: Horodyskyj, L. and Lennon, T.: Greenworks:  Science, Role-Playing, and Community Transformation, EGU General Assembly 2021, online, 19–30 Apr 2021, EGU21-13652, https://doi.org/10.5194/egusphere-egu21-13652, 2021.

Jose Saraiva, Priscila Doran, and Rosa Doran

The Earth is an amazing planet. However, it is also an unpredictable and wild one – part of its many charms. Atmosphere, hydrosphere, geosphere are alive, and can unleash awesome forces on the whole planet, including the biosphere, of which we humans are part. It’s important to make young students aware of the fact that we all live in a planet that was not made specifically for humans, and that it is absolutely imperative that our species learns to respect it and its rhythms and cycles.

Human settlements are often located in pleasant areas, with little or no concern about their vulnerability to natural disasters. Authorities, local, regional and national, should make preparations to prevent and mitigate their occurrence, of course. But at least as important is the need to create awareness in the citizens, so they can face any disaster and react in a calm and orderly way. That task must begin at an early age. Other than learning to deal with natural disasters and avoiding panic, schoolkids can exert a powerful influence in the adult members of their families and alert them to the measures they should adopt to prepare for any future occurrence.

In project rAn, EU-funded, we aim to develop a serious game, adjusted to the age of the targets, that will teach them about four types of natural disaster (earthquakes, floods, fires and storms) and make them aware of how to prepare and react in case of one of them striking their city or village. The game will be easy to play, and given the small age of the players will not feature complex interactions. It will include contributions from teachers and groups of students from all Europe, that will be challenged to create small games on the subject, using the Scratch language.    

How to cite: Saraiva, J., Doran, P., and Doran, R.: Project rAn:  Games to promote awareness of natural disasters in young students, EGU General Assembly 2021, online, 19–30 Apr 2021, EGU21-15339, https://doi.org/10.5194/egusphere-egu21-15339, 2021.