Serious Game

What is a serious game?

Serious games are teaching and exercise methods in which the participating persons playfully take on roles in a reality-based but model-like decision-making task and are told the effect of their decisions through a simulation. The goal of a serious game is to provide the participating persons with a deeper understanding of the decision-making task. Role reversal and dialogue based on the simulation can also improve decision-making competence for the task in question (“action learning”).

Role in the project

In the ZuWaKo project, serious games are used to work through the qualitative conflict models developed in the case studies together with the actors involved. In doing so, the interdependencies of the actors’ decisions caused by side effects are to be made visible and the complexity of the conflict situations is to be made tangible. In this way, the conditions characteristic of a future conflict scenario in their various manifestations are specifically set as framework conditions within which the players can experimentally set their goals and reflect on them through the reactions in the overall system.

CIB analysis is used as a method for qualitative simulation of conflict interdependence. The conflict models of the three modules (Module A, Module B, Module C) are formulated in terms of cross-impact matrices. The CIB analysis then enables each decision maker to show the consequences of the decisions of the other participants for his/her own decision field.

The CIB simulation is implemented in a web-based simulation interface so that the application can be run online, independent of location and system. This makes it possible for actors to come together in a low-threshold way and to exchange information about their respective positions.

Purpose of the Game

  • 1st purpose (content): to make it possible to experience the consequences of one’s own measures as well as the measures of other actors under different future contexts and to test possible joint and robust combinations of measures (policy mixes). This helps to improve the systemic understanding of uncertain, complex and potentially conflicting decision-making situations with long-term consequences, i.e. so-called wicked problems.
  • 2nd purpose (process): to promote intersectoral and transdisciplinary cooperation; to bring actors to the table and into communication, to make alternative courses of action and their interactions transparent. The web application also provides a tool for participatory modeling.

Development and use of the simulation game

The simulation web application will first be developed in a preliminary version and then elaborated for practical use in a participatory co-design process together with the participating actors. Within the project, a workable workshop version that can be used in the context of “serious gaming” is aimed for.
In addition to the use with the participating actors in the case studies, the business game is also to be used in the university teaching of the project partners. On the basis of the experiences gained in this way, the application will be revised and accompanying materials developed for independent use of the simulation by third parties.


The simulation game and the accompanying materials developed are to be kept freely available online even after the end of the project and provide an offer for research and practice for the participatory management of interdependent conflicts. Although the simulation is being developed in the context of water conflicts, we expect that it will also be applicable in the context of other conflict fields with a high degree of (future) uncertainty and complexity.

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