3.87 - Serious Planning Games

Project Description

There seems to exist a crisis in participation, not that citizens do not wish to participate in collective and public affairs. But in contemporary societies, there is a sense of urgency and too many things competing for the time and attention of the individuals. Citizens demand higher participation levels and effectiveness, and that participation results are consequent. Planning practitioners are struggling to find new methods to address these demands. Planners are also exploring new data collection methods to improve their planning practices. Collaborative planning approaches have been tested, at least in the past three decades, requiring new methods to increase participation levels and propose processes where the participants can generate effective results. Participation without consequent outcomes is a problem that planners, politicians and other decision-makers must account for. Serious games have been used as support tools for these planning approaches to foster participation and to collect data that would be difficult to obtain by other means.The present thesis explores how modern board games can support serious games for collaborative urban and spatial planning and deal with urban complexity. First, it tries to find the state of the art of games used in planning, identifying the associated literature. Then it also explores the state of the art of modern board games related to city and territory building, going deep into the game elements like the game mechanisms and their representations. Then several practical case studies show the development process and results of several analogue serious games, including a digital adaptation. The focus on analogue games results from the demand for easy and inexpensive methods to deliver serious games. Analogue games are the simplest and most probable starting points for planners wishing to use games as tools for planning approaches. Also, modern board games are a worldwide trend that engages a continuously growing number of gamers each year, and among these games, many are about urban simulations or real cities. The thesis explores several serious game application cases for planning and identifies their strengths and limitations. Proposes a guide of game mechanisms to select and combine to build analogue serious games. By exploring the development process of several original analogue serious games for urban planning, for different case studies, it shows the challenges, pitfalls, and results of practical implementations with real users (participants) for real planning problems. Among those, the UrbSecusity (Urbact) case is about a participatory planning process to improve the urban safety and security of the historical city centre of Leiria (Portugal). In the case of the Municipality of Marinha Grande (Portugal), a collaborative analogue game was compared to an optimization software to plan the elementary network of schools. The comparison revealed how human interaction brings other dimensions not considered in the model. These two cases were only possible because other serious game approaches were tested before with students and other planning experts, testing game mechanisms, human interactions, and dealing with game outcomes.Developing the games required considerable game design knowledge and facilitation skills, which can be challenging for planners wishing to explore game-based planning.

Project Team
  • António Pais Antunes (supervisor) Universidade de Coimbra / CITTA
  • Nelson Zagalo (co-supervisor) Universidade de Aveiro
  • Nuno Pinto (co-supervisor) University of Manchester
  • Micael Sousa
Financial Support
  • FCT/POR_CENTRO/74121/PT | PD/BD/146491/2019

Stage of progress
  • Concluded in 2023