Serious game design course

How can we use games to address water sector problems? How do we design enough usefulness and fun into them?  What can we learn ourselves while we’re designing games? These are some of the questions we try to answer during the IHE Delft serious game design summer course.

From 2016 – 2022, I coordinated and taught on a week-long summer course at IHE Delft in the Netherlands. Games can be used to teach, to engage people, to enable discussion on sensitive topics, and more. During the course, students work in teams to develop serious games addressing different water issues, from community engagement in flood protection to investment planning.

Students testing their creation on innocent bystanders in the IHE cafe. This is a flood protection game using a board from a water allocation game by Bruce Lankford.

Short lectures and workshops guide them through the process, from conceptualising their chosen water system, to choosing an audience and game format, to prototyping, testing, and facilitating the games. Serious game design often involves difficult decisions between what’s realistic and what’s fun, and by testing the games repeatedly on themselves and others, the teams grow and shape their games. What’s finished on Friday is often very different to what was planned on Monday!

On Friday, all the teams get the chance to play each others games, and students reflect on how well the game met their brief. Lots of interesting ideas come out of the course, from board games to computer games.