Gaming deals with human issues, making it a good way to help people understand the planning process and other people’s viewpoints. They are particularly useful at an early stage of any community planning activity or to prepare people for a specific future challenge.
In this approach games are devised to mirror real life planning scenarios or to teach specific skills. They deal with human issues and are mostly played in groups, usually helped by a facilitator or someone who has played them before. Many games involve role play, in which people act as if they were someone else.
As mentioned before: Games are both, a good way to help people understand the planning process and other people’s viewpoints and also an enjoyable way to get people working together, making them particularly useful at an early stage of any community planning activity or as a way of preparing people for a specific future challenge.
In Foresight, games are mainly designed to aid decisions, planning, and policy implementation, by getting a clearer idea of possible reactions of other people involved. When the consequences of a decision or trend are unclear, or people lack a clear understanding of the issue, games can be a useful and enjoyable method.
Gaming can be a:
• brain-storming device
• method of realising a thought experiment
• chance to pre-test behavioural assumptions in decision models prior to implementation
• two-way learning mechanism
• way to open communication lines among players
• aid to discussion between analysts and decision makers about problem clarification
The main benefits of games are the game participants who gain more insight, particularly into the way others think, and decision-makers, who gain insight into how people might react on particular decisions. The people who are involved are decision-makers who can help set up the game and possibly participate. Game participants can either be stakeholders, team members representing the stakeholders, or actors. Students are often involved as game participants.
The following scheme represents the typical phases in a game exercise:
• Set objectives for role-playing situation: Possible objectives are learning, self-reflection, etc.
• Determine external constraints of situation: Set duration, number of participants, available budget, confidentiality
• List critical factors of the situation: Identify critical factors in the current or desired situation.
• Decide on type or structure: Regarding objectives, constraints and critical factors determine the ideal type of participants and structure of the game.
• Write or find appropriate scenarios: Write scenarios that fit into type or structure and test behavioural impacts of participants.
• Run session: Play the game with the participants.
• Debrief participants and observers: Question participants and observers on their behaviour and findings in the game and possibly the resemblance to reality.
• Follow up: Decide on dissemination of the game played and decide on follow up, whether there is enough information or new foresight must be done.
Depending on the availability of a game setup, number and type of participants, number of sessions and used equipment projects might endure 1 to 6 months; acquire labour force for and skills such as game set up, game facilitation, participants and analysis. Foresight exercises might range in cost from 25,000 to 150,000 euros.
There is usually no specific output other than increased awareness but they may produce preliminary design proposals or an agenda for any future initiatives needed.
Pros and cons
The common advantage of gaming is the practical insight into social structures and impacts on human behaviour, like actions, reactions, goals and considerations of stakeholders. Potential limitations lie in the imagination needed for specific roles, if game participants are not the real stakeholders, or strategic game behaviour and advance knowledge by stakeholders when they participate. Gaming implicitly assumes room for play for all stakeholders.
The setup of gaming can differ on main focus, whether interaction (roles of players, e.g.) or transaction (rules of the game, e.g. chess), while games can be organised differently on the availability and trustworthiness of information amongst the different stakeholders.
Other methods that can be used to complement gaming include modelling, which can help set up the game, and simulation or trend extrapolation, which can give a structural insight into how the future evolves.
• Complex social structure
• Different environments of several stakeholders, e.g. goals, objectives, incentives
• The future will largely depend on human behaviour and interaction