Disaster Preparedness Games

Disaster Preparedness Games


The American Red Cross’ International Services Department has teamed up with the Red Cross/Red Crescent Climate Centre and Parsons The New School of Design’s Prototyping, Evaluation, Teaching and Learning Lab (PETLab) to develop a set of participatory games about disaster preparedness and changing climate risks.

The games serve as a platform for experiential learning and have the aim of enabling community members better understand specific risks; make decisions; deal with the consequences of their decisions; and have a shared learning dialogue about what must be done in order to make better decisions in the future.
Climate and disaster risk reduction games are useful tools in formal as well as semi-formal or informal learning environments. They are designed to be played with a range of stakeholders who contend with a wide range of issues encompassing food security, road safety, supply chain logistics in humanitarian relief, interpreting and acting on climate information, climate-resilient coastal development, urban waste management, disaster preparedness and response, and more. Each serious game reveals how complexity manifests itself across various sectors, timescales and spatial scales of decision-making, and simulates changing realities, plausible decisions and related outcomes.

Community Organization

Using games in RCRC work:

Dissemination of key messages across age groups: People receive key messages through a variety of mediums. In the Red Cross we are very accustomed to door to door campaigns, community meetings, radio broadcasts, posters, brochures etc. However, in all of these scenarios it is very easy for the information receiver to disengage. People can close their door, daydream during a meeting, change the radio channel and throw away posters and brochures. Games however, by their very nature, require people to remain engaged. They allow for people to receive messages in a fun and competitive way that cannot be matched by other forms of information dissemination.

Enhancing discussion of complex concepts: Games allow us to experience complex systems. They can simplify challenges in reality by magnifying and focusing on key obstacles to progress and eliminating the extra background noise. People playing the game are able to go through multiple rounds, mimicking the passage of time at high speeds, to experience long term impacts of decisions made in the present. Players can experience the varied outcomes of taking different decisions. This can help to instigate meaningful and more in depth discussion about actual decisions to be taken in real life.

Advocacy for behavior change: Similar to the second example above, asking players to inhabit the complex systems of another group of people can help to change decision making patterns in the present.

Leveling hierarchical boundaries in a community: Consider for a moment a typical focus group discussion. There are often a few dominant voices that lead and skew the discussion toward their own views. However using a game can help to break down this power dynamic, or the power dynamic between a community and a donor, in order to have a more open and honest conversation. This game mechanic could be used in: a VCA, project planning, regular monitoring of a projects strengths and weaknesses and even in a formal evaluation of the outcomes and impacts after a project’s conclusion.

Game: System in which players engage in an artificial conflict, defined by rules, that result in a quantifiable outcome.

Inhabitable Games: Playable dynamic models that can meaningfully engage people in experiencing complex systems-to better understand their current or potential role in transforming them-in a way that is both serious and fun.

Serious Games: Games with an explicit and carefully thought-out educational purpose-not intended to be played primarily for amusement.

Simulation: An operating representation of central features of reality.  All games can be called simulations if they draw directly from ongoing or potential events in real life-but not all simulations are games.[i]

[i] Games for a New Climate: Experiencing the Complexity of Future Risks.  Pardee Center Task Force Report, November 2012.  Boston University, The Frederick S. Pardee Center for the Study of the Longer-Range Future.  Online: http://tinyurl.com/BUPardee-G4NC