Hydrological Sciences

Designing a video game – a new scientific experience

Designing a video game – a new scientific experience


“We are in 2050. In 2020, a multi-disciplinary team of scientists and of actors from the Swiss mountains have launched the digital interface MOUNTAINCRAFT. The impact of the launching was immediate: collectivities, socio-economic actors, people living in the area adopted the tool and started implementing adaptation measures to cope with climate change (…). Ultimately, the tool spread across Switzerland and the entire world.”

Nice plot! Now, imagine yourself on a Monday morning, sitting in an idyllic, vegetarian, yoga hotel together with 20 other people (who you mostly do not know) and preparing yourself to answer the question how we could design that miraculous tool. And even more unthinkable: try to visualize that you are actually going to design that tool in the next 4 days. Seems impossible, right? The design of a small research proposal, ok, this might well fit into a 4 days’ workshop, but a video game? Well, everything is possible with the right ingredients: a team of facilitators to guide you through the collection of ideas, through the establishment of a common vocabulary and the actual design in a small team (7 people). The prototype was finished precisely on time for a first test (Thursday afternoon at 4 pm).

All involved people went back home with the definitive feeling to have experienced something radically different. And even if we do not know yet how to find the few Millions to go beyond the prototype stage, the experience was very enriching for my future work. Some ideas for your next workshop:

  • Start the discussions before actually presenting yourselves. It’s so refreshing to talk to people without exactly knowing their professional background.
  • Invite a professional story teller to wrap-up your participatory workshop. The impact will be certainly much bigger than with the classical “the group leaders report back” approach.
  • Have a look at the book sprint design” even if you are more of a slow science person and not a fan of google. You might discover how nice it is to stop brainstorming and to have a designated decision taker rather than endless democratic processes.
  • Go with your workshop to an unexpected place. Ok, this is an easy one, but did you ever have a workshop in slippers and on yoga mattresses?


The main actors of the workshop summary

Participants in slippers to preserve the wooden yoga room floor.

Bettina Schaefli
Bettina Schaefli is a professor for hydrology at University of Bern (Switzerland). She was the head of the Catchment Hydrology Subdivision of EGU from 2016-2019 and was an editor of Hydrology and Earth System Sciences (2008-2022). She has been the lead editor of the Hydrology Blog since 2018.

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