Thursday, October 4, 2012

Global Water Games with Philippe Cousteau - SXSWEco

Imagine a game where you make decisions and take actions that mirror the real life decisions that affect people's lives. These decisions impact local farmers, fishers, even the health of a watershed. This is the type of thing that makes the policy "wonk" giggle.  The University of Virginia in a group effort, have created this awesome game that simulates the policy making and stakeholder process. The particular scenario they portray is with an east coast watershed but this partially open sourced game can really be applied to any policy making decision that impacts a group of stake holders.

A group of at least 4 and at most, well, there probably could have been a room filled with people filling different roles, can play the game. The "players" are broken into land developers, farmers, "Watermen," and policy makers of various types. Each round the different players made decisions on the games platform. In this particular instance I played a "Bay Policy Maker." In this instance it meant I regulated how many crabs the "Waterman" players could remove from the Virginia watershed and when.

Some may find this boring or overly complex but it really was a great way to look at the motivations of the different stakeholders and the x factors that affect the watershed. At one point the game sent us a curve ball with a hurricane. To "win" the game the players have to create a sustainable watershed system which the game equates as both an economic and a "watershed health" system.

This was a round based game where each round represented a 2 year period. I started to get the hang of the game towards the end of it but I would love to try all the different roles. As Philippe Cousteau explained, "This game is used to show that we all play a part in the sustainability of the system, I learn something new each time."

The administrators and developers went on to explain that everyone for college students to policy makers all have bought in to the game and loved playing it, each learning something new about the system and the different roles and effects the players have. There was some feedback about the User Interface and some of the play-ability but, keeping in mind this pretty much the beta testing of the game, I expect some amazing and wonderful advancements out of this game. Imagine an acidification module and filter animals like oysters! I am nerding out soo much about this right now, I doubt I can sleep tonight. Definitely the highlight of my SXSW Eco.

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