Serious Gaming for Water Systems Planning and Management
© 2016 by the authors; licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland. This article is an open access article distributed under the terms and conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution (CC-BY) license (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/).
Water systems planning and management share the same roots with gaming, as they rely on concepts in systems analysis, operations research and decision sciences. This paper focuses on Serious Games (those used for purposes other than mere entertainment), with applications in the area of water systems planning and management. A survey of published work on gaming is carried out with particular attention given to applications of Serious Gaming to water systems planning and management. The survey is also used to identify the principal criteria for the classification of Serious Gaming for water related applications, including application areas, goals, number and type of players, user interface, type of simulation model used, realism of the game, performance feedback, progress monitoring and game portability. The review shows that game applications in the water sector can be a valuable tool for making various stakeholders aware of the socio-techno-economic issues related to managing complex water systems. However, the critical review also indicates a gap that exists in the Serious Game application area with the lack of water distribution system games. A conceptually simple, but computationally elaborate new game for water distribution system analysis, design and evaluation (SeGWADE) is presented in this paper. It has a main goal of finding a least-cost design for a well-known benchmark problem, for which the game environment takes the computational and visualisation burden away from the simulation tool and the player. The game has been evaluated in a classroom environment in which a high degree of player engagement with the game was observed, due to its basic game ingredients and activities, i.e., challenge, play and fun. In addition, a clear improvement in learning has been observed in how players attempted to identify solutions that satisfy the pressure criterion with players readily identifying the proximity of the better solutions to the starting, infeasible configuration. Through applications of Serious Gaming such as this, decision makers can learn about the complexity of the water distribution system design problem, experiment safely using a computer model of a real system, understand conflicting objectives (i.e., minimization of cost and satisfaction of minimum pressure) and develop strategies for coping with complexity without being burdened by the limitations of the ICT technology at their disposal.
The authors would like to acknowledge the funding provided by the UK Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, grant EP/M018865/1 (The Nexus Game).
This is the final version of the article. Available from MDPI via the DOI in this record.
Vol. 8, article 10