A “serious game” to explore alternative forestry futures

The March 2022 Journal of Forestry has an article about ‘A “serious game” to explore alternative forestry futures.’ The lead author is David Bengston, a futurist at the station who always has though-provoking takes.”My current research is in the transdisciplinary field of Futures Research (also called Strategic Foresight or simply Futures). Futures Research uses a wide range of methods and techniques to explore possible, plausible, and preferable futures. The goal is to develop foresight — insight into how and why the future could be different than today — to improve policy, planning, and decision making.”

The article is behind a membership wall, but the article also is available from the Northern Research Station.  The abstract:

Serious games are designed to achieve specific educational or other practical purposes beyond pure entertainment. These games take many different forms—from card decks to massive multiplayer online games—and have proliferated across diverse fields. This note introduces IMPACT: Forestry Edition, a serious board game designed to help forestry professionals and stakeholders think more broadly, critically, and creatively about the future of forestry. We describe the game and feedback from beta testing and discuss the advantages and potential drawbacks of gaming methods. A “print and play” version of the game is included as supplemental material. Serious games can make an important contribution to forestry by engaging and informing diverse stakeholders and generating insight that other methods cannot.

Maybe we can have an in-person Smokey Wire meeting and play this game. Hawaii might be an ideal location….

5 thoughts on “A “serious game” to explore alternative forestry futures”

  1. When the original Sim City computer game first came out, some college classes used it for teaching city management. Why couldn’t the same thing be done for forests and forestry? The combination of factors to deal with could result in “many paths to victory”, depending on what you want to manage for. It could also be a tool to help the public understand all the different scenarios and conditions to consider.

  2. This game is a good warm-up activity for meetings and workshops with diverse stakeholders, to get everyone thinking about a broader range of possible futures. A “print and play” version of the game and the rule book is available — contact me if you’re interested.

    • David, what has been the most interesting or surprising result of the game, so far? Has it changed players’ hearts and minds?

      • The pandemic slowed down the use of the game considerably, since we couldn’t have groups play it in person. We did develop an online version of the game through a board game platform called Tabletopia. It worked but wasn’t as good as playing in person!
        The main results of the game on players is that they have fun (and you learn more when it’s fun) and they come away with a broader view of possible, plausible, and preferable futures. That’s the goal. I think the fact that the “impact cards” and “disruption cards” are real-life trends and emerging issues makes it more real for participants.

  3. What is the big difference between Sims games and HCP modeling? I asked this question several years ago before two audiences at OSU; one being forestry grads, faculty and staff in December and one to fish & wildlife grads, faculty and staff in January. Both presentations — on spotted owl “science” directing policies — were very poorly received. No one laughed at my jokes and the few questions I got were pretty lame. But modeling with imaginary futures is modeling with imaginary futures. Good tools, but not “science.” In my opinion.


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