A new paper provides the first systematic review of how serious games can support sustainability education.
Sustainability gamification has already taken its place in the corporate and education realms, but now scientists want in on some of the fun action too. Thanks to a new paper in the Journal of Cleaner Production we have the first systematic review of how serious games can support sustainability education and contribute to necessary change.
Games can help us conduct research in various fields, cure deadly diseases and deal with other vital issues. In this case, the study explored 77 serious games aimed at addressing sustainability challenges and facilitating positive learning outcomes. Featured cases include video and online games, sandbox games, hybrid simulations, quizzes, apps, as well as dice and card games.
When it comes to playing, it helps not to be too serious, so to better understand the learning outcomes and get some hands-on experience, researchers actually played each of the games on their own. By doing so, they were able to build a database that can be used to support learning on a certain sustainability issue.
The range of topics covers a wide range from climate action debates to biodiversity conservation tools to disaster risk management to sustainable business to agriculture, energy, policy interventions and more. The database is so far only available in the form of a research paper, but hopefully the authors will find an attractive and effective way to make it available publicly.
Meanwhile, other databases on sustainability-related games are already available online. The Games4Sustainability platform for one features over 100 games classified by sustainable development goals.
Do you want to learn about geoengineering? You can turn to the Earth: Primer mobile app. Are you looking for a creative way to discuss food sustainability? You have the EcoChains card game at your fingertips. Meanwhile, Earthopoly and The World’s Future will show how to achieve effective resource management, Lords of Valley will teach the basics of sustainable flood management, and Gifts of Culture will show what it takes to achieve societal resilience.
Yet not all games are equally effective, user-friendly and accurate. Some might be tailored to particular age groups or single-player settings, while others might have low recurrence rates or even be harmful in certain contexts. There is also a need for deeper understanding of the ethical and cultural aspects of serious games as well as their long-term learning outcomes.
And while researchers don’t consider serious games a panacea, they see them among the most effective tools to facilitate learning for sustainability, promote environmental values, systems thinking and better understanding of global challenges.