A serious game for serious issues

UN Environment has embraced the world of gamification to raise awareness about the importance of managing water and ecosystems in a sustainable way.
Read Story

Article Quotes

“Aqua Republica is a great way of getting people to understand the complexities of environmental planning and the web of interlinkages and trade-offs involved.”

The Aqua Republica game combines game mechanics and hydrological simulations to help people better appreciate the inter-linkages between water resources, social and economic development, and environmental sustainability.

Since 2013, UN Environment, together with DHI (a name not an abbreviation), has been developing this innovative online game.

“This game is an exciting way to sensitize people and convey knowledge. As we speak, more than 15,000 high school children, university students, government officials and senior experts have either played the game or used it in competitions, training sessions and meetings,” says Gareth James Lloyd, Senior Advisor at UN Environment-DHI Centre. An annual international schools’ competition has seen more than 2,000 children playing each year.

The game presents a number of real-life challenges such as how to allocate resources between municipal, agricultural, industrial and energy sectors, while ensuring adequate environmental services and minimizing adverse climate change impacts.

The game platform caters for people across all age groups and with different levels of “ecosystem” understanding. It also allows deeper dives into topics such as the Sustainable Development Goals, through a guided learning experience.

The game typically starts by introducing players to Aqua Republica, before informing them that they have the responsibility to develop a small but ambitious nation in the most sustainable way possible. As the game progresses, factors such as climate change, population growth and demand for homes and jobs, force players to adapt to survive and thrive.

The game presents scenarios such as growing crops for food or biofuel, asking the player to find how to best achieve both goals while mitigating environmental and climate change risks. Players learn quickly that infrastructure development is costly, takes time to implement, and often hurts the resource base on which they depend.

One reason for the game’s success is that it is fun and interesting. It provides a realistic learning environment, one that allows players to make mistakes and learn from them, so that they could avoid them in a real-life situation. There are plans to expand the game platform to mobile devices.

“Aqua Republica is a great way of getting people to understand the complexities of environmental planning and the web of interlinkages and trade-offs involved,” says Lloyd.

While the world of Aqua Republica is fictitious, the water management challenges are real. The game is a way to learn about integrated water resource management whilst having fun along the way.

Explore the game at aquarepublica.com