With the rise of electronic games – those played on computers, consoles and even on mobile phones – you’d be forgiven for thinking the humble board game would be slowly making its way into the history books.
Nothing could be further from the truth! Sales of board games are on the up, as are cafes where you can gather to play table-top games of your choice, and board game meet ups: regular gaming gatherings.
While the aim of many games is simply to entertain, countless others exploit the pleasure we derive from playing them to educate the player at the same time. Board (and electronic) games are valuable tools when it comes to disseminating research findings and teaching players about modern day circumstances.
Many facets of the geosciences, where reaching out to the public is crucial – raising awareness about natural hazards, climate change, for instance – lend themselves nicely to being developed into outreach projects which involve some sort of game. Whether you are looking for a way to teach your students in the classroom about the threat of rising sea levels, or increasing awareness about volcanic eruptions within a local community, you might find an unlikely ally in the modest board game.
We’ve put together a list of some (geo)educational games which you might consider using/playing in the future (the target age groups are varied, click links to the actual games for details). This list is by no means exhaustive! We welcome all readers to recommend games we might have missed and review the ones we link too; do share your thoughts in the comments section.
Climate related games
- CO2: the goal is to stop the increase of pollution, while meeting the rising demand for sustainable energy
- KEEP COOL – Gambling with the Climate: developed by scientists based at Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK), the aim is to prosper economically while at the same time maintaining a stable global climate
- Climate Challenge: an online game from the BBC, where you are president of the European Nations. You must tackle climate change and stay popular enough with the voters to remain in office
- Ice Flows: aimed at school-aged children, this app based game hopes to raise awareness about the current scientific understanding about how ice flows and that ice sheets are dynamic environments. Because the game has a fun element to it too, the scientists behind it have developed a webpage which shines a light on the various science and fictional elements in the game
Screen shot from Ice Flows (University of Exeter 2016/ Anne Le Brocq/Inhouse Visuals)
- Volcanoes Top Trumps: A card game where players are dealt a number of volcanoes, before pitting them against an opponent – choosing a numerical stat about their volcano that they think will win. You can also play an online version if you prefer.
- Hazagora – will you survive the next disaster?: A role play-style game to explore how individuals and nations are affected by geohazards
- Seismic: build a road network in the treacherous areas neighboring the San Andreas fault
- STOP DISASTERS! : An online disaster simulation game by the International Strategy for Disaster Reduction
- Paleotopia: Windows to the Past: develops understanding of the various geological Eras and Periods, complete with downloadable materials
- Journey to the Centre of the Earth: inspired by the famous Jules Verne novel, the games comes highlight recommended by AGU blogger and geologist Evelyn
- Rock-on: a card game which teaches players about the rock cycle and rock types
Setup of Hazagora- will you survive the next disaster?: (a) board game; (b) character cards with from left to right: the mayor, the ﬁsherman, the lumberjack, the farmer and the tour guide; (c) resource cards: bread, water and bricks; (d) resource dice; (e) water well and food market; (f) hut (one chip with one family), house (two chips with two families), and road; (g) cost information card for building new streets, huts, and houses and buying protection cards. Taken from Mossoux, S., et al. (2016).
- The UN’s World Water Day Games: a great selection of hydrology-related games (some online, some not), from those which help understand water crisis through to one which explores the effects of unexpected droughts and floods, to games which mimic the management of a river catchment
- Irrigania: web-based, multi-player game, about water resource sharing. The paper linked too contains references to a number of other hydrology games too
Has the above list inspired you to come up with an idea for a game related to your research? Why not apply for one of our Public Engagement Grants? They award €1000 to develop a project which raises awareness of geosciences outside the scientific community – ripe for a game related idea!
By Laura Roberts, EGU Communications Officer
Please note that while I researched all the games included in this list I cannot, nor can the EGU, guarantee the scientific accuracy of the games. Mention in this list doesn’t not mean I, or the EGU, endorse the games.