In collaboration with the Games Studio, we are building serious games, which are a type of entertainment that connects a serious purpose to knowledge and technologies from the video game industry. These games offer an opportunity to embed a model of an existing or imagined reality into a gaming environment, with the purpose of examining how players make decisions that influence the model's state over time and also how the game influences players’ cognitive and behavioral states and preferences.
Last Island Game
The first serious game called ‘Last Island’ was developed in 2017. It is a computer-assisted board game that helps to better understand the influence of human behavior and choices on the transition towards a more sustainable future.
Each round the players make decisions using the cards; they also need to perform the corresponding actions in the computer-based interface, where they could see the consequences of their choices. By applying different actions, the player could influence the core elements of the system - human population, economic development and the current state of the environment. The overall goal of the game is to keep all three parameters in balance.
The distinctive feature of the game is that it promotes both competitive and collaborative behavior of the players. On the one hand, each player in the team has his individual goals and score in the game, on the other hand, he needs to take into consideration the effects of his actions on the overall state of the system because there is no winner if the team fails to prevent the collapse in the game.
Last Island game was developed within a short period of two month that happened to be possible due to the use and calibration of the already existing system dynamics model as a base for the game structure. The game design and its implementation were done by Ph.D. student Firouzeh Taghikhah and two second-year Bachelor of Science and Games Development students George Mitri and Sebastian Du Toit.
The game was tested during a series of interactive sessions with the researchers and students of UTS and partnering university from Poland. The participants gave positive feedback regarding their experience of playing the game. One of the observations from the process perspective is that most of the groups lost at least one round and were willing to make several more attempts in order to improve their performance and test different strategy along the process.
The first reflections on the game Last Island were presented at the Australasian Computer Science Week Multiconference in 2019 (OPUS UTS).
Such serious games as Last Island have high potential and value for the decision-making process in the field of sustainable development because their use helps to get insights about human’s choices and behavior in an interactive and engaging manner as well as to boost critical thinking and learning among the players.