Board Game

Game 2

Resilienceville was a collaborative research effort used to support two separate research projects as partial completion of a master’s degree in disaster and emergency management (DEM). The research was completed in conjunction with the ResiliencebyDesign Lab at Royal Roads University. The first study is entitled, Disaster Risk Reduction through Play: A Serious Game Based on Research, Comprised of Research, for the Purposes of Research, by Brooks Hogya, and the second is  Play to Practice (P2P), by Mark Altermann.

Both studies used a participatory action research approach to explore the use of serious games as a tool to engage youth and examineconcepts of resilience, disaster risk reduction (DRR), and learning. The research board game “Resilienceville” came from the joint research conducted by Hogya and Altermann and was a both an outcome from the research and tool for the data gathering process. The two projects overlapped in a number of areas; however, each study was an independent body of work where the shared data was analysed independently and to answer separate research questions.


Play to Practice

Play to Practice was developed to explore youths’ (15-25 years old) perceptions of individual and community resilience and disaster risk reduction (DRR) using content development for Resilienceville, as the backdrop. This part of the Resilienceville project was conducted during Phase 1 (Ontario) using focus groups to explore youth perceptions of resilience and DRR, gather data, and allow participants to conduct the initial data analysis narrowing and ranking resilience characteristics. The content and youth analysis of the initial data informed the second phase of research, game content development.

Phase 2 (British Columbia & Alberta) brought together the two research projects where Hogya and Altermann worked collaboratively to develop the game board and incorporate the youth developed resilience and DRR data from Alterman’s research into Hogya’s game framework. Researchers then traveled to Banff, Alberta and played the game with a group of disaster affected youth participating in the ARC project (description/link needed).

Phase 3, back in Ontario brought the original informants back together for a play session, focus group and interviews to obtain additional feedback and comment on how Phase 1 data was incorporated into the game, and how initial informants’ perceptions of resilience and DRR changed through involvement in this research project.

Throughout the development of the game, Payton’s (2010) model of resilience/adaptive predictors/social capital indicators (RAPSCI) informed the game framework and allowed for the development of data gathering activities and analysis processes which supported both researchers’ goals.

Early identification of the RAPSCI model and its parallels with a social ecological framework further supported data gathering by providing a framework for youth to locate themselves and their ideas into a familiar community context and their place within it.

Picture for board game

The youths’ data provided a broad range of resilience characteristics that researchers were able to refine and shape into the mini scenarios as game cards as well as the language on the game board and in its descriptive elements. It exposed players to a wide spectrum of resilience and DRR characteristics during game play.


Gameplay was itself a participatory process yielding additional data on resilience and DRR perceptions which served to highlight differences between youth from varied communities and disaster experiences. The differences exposed some of the most interesting aspects of the study.


Main Findings

Youth’s initial awareness of resilience soon gave way to observing a much deeper awareness of resilience concepts and their interaction in people’s lives. The participatory approach allowed for youth to deepen their understanding/awareness of resilience as residing across the broad spectrum of youths’ socio ecological connections. Their ability to articulate and frame their knowledge resulted in the development of the youth developed resilience framework (YRDF).


Youth awareness of the positive attributes of resilience were juxtaposed with viewpoints identifying the potential negative factors that could undermine resilience throughout the resilience nest which represented the socio ecological framework in this study.

The RAPSCI model  provided participants with a framework for understanding resilience, creating game content, and assisted informants and game players to deepen their understanding and perceptions of resilience and DRR.

The initial participants reported achieving a greater understanding of resilience from the process and what became interesting was the unexpected differences in resilience perceptions between the initial informants and players. While each group highlighted similar resilience characteristics the each ranked characteristics differently. It led to questioning the importance of disaster experience and place-based influences on resilience and DRR perceptions. It generated questions on the impact ‘place’ and ‘experiences’ can have on the shape of DRR action from those perspectives.

P2P concluded with a finding that youth predominantly identify resilience as flowing between psychological and socio ecological domains. This differs from much of the literature which often remains isolated within their own domain. It is within that literature gap, or as research shows an overlap, that opportunities to operationalize underutilizes groups, like youth, may hold promise for developing sustainable and inclusive DRR strategies.

This study supports the participation of youth in research and by extension into DRR action within the community. Further, it presents a conceptual framework for disaster based games as an engagement tool to develop partnerships between a) emergency management practitioners b) academics and post-secondary students, and c) youth in the community.

Disaster Risk Reduction through Play: A Serious Game Based on Research, Comprised of Research, for the Purposes of Research

Innovative approaches, like serious board games, can be used to bridge the gap between education and practice and give participants a space in which to explore complex academic ideas. Games can offer players competition, cooperation, and inform about disaster risk reduction and community resilience. This project created a purpose-built research tool (disaster board game) to engage youths 18 to 25-years old. Further, this study explored how to incorporate academic research into interactive game mechanics, and collect data from within the game scoring strategies.

My results revealed that group dynamics influence gameplay when effective collaboration, sharing of ideas, conflict, and conflict resolution, are managed through effective communication. The teams that communicated well achieved better outcomes when playing the game. Players have unique game design and play preferences; thus, not all game styles (choice driven vs. dice or chance driven) are suitable for all players. Preference became an important factor in engaging some youth, and future studies involving serious games about disaster will benefit from a three-pronged approach. That is, serious games should be based on: (1)scientific research to drive the content; (2) simple rules to allow for easy engagement; and (3) high-quality themed artwork which strengthens and reinforces the intent of the games intended message or goals.

In early discussions with the other RbD lab members, Payton’s (2010) resilience and adaptive capacity model arose as a promising conceptual base from which to frame research, the game development, and scoring. Payton’s model became a link between Altermann’s and my research to support content development and later study integration.


Initial steps involved soliciting input via a semi structured online focus group to explore youths’ preferences for games and to identify youth focussed game design elements. This led to the initial prototype game board structure, mechanics and scoring concepts. Along with Paton’s model,Brouillette & Quarantelli’s (1971) organizational disaster response model became key structures informing game design.

Once Altermann’s research collecting and analyzing youth resilience and DRR game content could be incorporated into the initial design, testing and redevelopment began. I created multiple iterations of the game and play tested 6 versions prior to producing the version used for final playtesting and data gathering. My revisions all game play aspects and included board design, scoring mechanisms, mathematics, activities game length/timing, flow, content and artwork.


I played the game with a diverse group of youth affected by the 2013 floods during a two-hour session of the initial ARC workshop in Banff Alberta. Youth formed teams of 5 members to play the game and discuss the experience. Team score cards were used to evaluate the game mechanics and data were also collected from my observations during gameplay and the audio recordings made at each play table. Following the gameplay, participants described their game decisions, results (scores), and experience in writing on scorecards and further in an audio recorded in a feedback session the next morning. The explanations were audio-recorded for later analyses.

Main Findings

Two themes contributed to the game’s success and as reasons for the game to fall apart: group dynamics and the game design. The game was designed as a collaborative game where everyone works in teams.

Group Dynamics

The groups, in terms of general functioning, collaboration and sharing of ideas, conflict and conflict resolution, and overall game progression apparent in teams that worked well together and understood how the game worked versus those that did not. The better the groups’ functioning across multiple domains, the higher the “scores” or points at the end of the 45-min time limit.

Game Design:

Game style (choice driven vs dice riven), artwork, and rules influenced player experiences and at times showed a connection to team and individual experiences and outcomes when examined next to the groups’ dynamic. The game style does not fit everyone’s sense of “Fun” and would not be their choice game type creating a player bias toward both the game and interest/participation.

Artistry within applied to the board design was limited to the iconography propelling players’ “choice based” game activity. Less attention was placed on a visual representation of the core game concepts and storyline. If the board game had more pictures and fewer words and was not so overwhelmingly complicated, the game play would have improved. Attention to this area would have assisted some participants needing a less academic and more visual representation of the game providing an instantaneous understanding of the game.

Rules: Universally, participants mentioned that the rules were not explained in enough detail before the game started. There was confusion about different pieces even after the game had started. Players suggested that the game could be improved if a demo was given before the start to fully understand the rules and game play. The rule book provided was detailed; however, the timed aspect of the game left little room to access and understand them.

Outcomes of the gameplay included participants commenting on the changes in their perceptions of teamwork, collaboration, and communication as key aspects of resilience and DRR action. This MRP demonstrated that ultimately groups succeed or fell apart strictly based on each group dynamic. Relationships and problem solving were keys to success. The game was not developed with replayability in mind but the success of the research and collaboration process leads me to suggest that future studies on serious games that teach about disasters could develop a workshop model for people to make their own disaster games.

Games must be designed for enjoyment, and the learning objectives for players must be optimized for the particular audience. Knowledge learned from the gameplay can be applied to help break the cycle of traditional DM response-focused approaches. Innovative approaches to teach about disasters at new levels, such as games geared towards youth, can be used to introduce the relevant complex ideas.

This project demonstrates that often out of reach ideas from academia, can be converted into an interactive serious game, where complex ideas can be made concrete. Through serious game play, ideas start to take shape that can evolve into action. Although the action is simulated, the discussions and solutions can be exciting and real to participants. Not only can games be used in a practical sense, but they can also be used in theoretical settings. The use of games goes beyond disaster studies, and can serve many different disciplines, whenever a message needs to be delivered. Games can bridge the gap.

Knowledge Gap