“Serious games”, very serious tools to help with the ecological transition

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By John

Resolving conflicts around water, limiting deforestation, managing coastal risks or even changing farming practices. “Serious games” (“serious games” in English) are experiencing a craze in the face of the challenges of ecological transition. By allowing you to acquire new knowledge, to put yourself in the place of others and to get out of confrontational situations, “they can be a solutionto environmental crises if they are well used”assures Sylvain Dernat, head of the Gamae platform, devoted to the design and evaluation of serious games within the National Research Institute for Agriculture, Food and the Environment (Inrae).

Serious games, which have been around for decades, have experienced a “very strong progress” in recent years, explains this engineer. Gamae lists more than 200 in France on agro-environmental, food or territorial issues, whether they are video or analog games (cards, roles, board, etc.) which aim at simulation, the design of new practices, the decision support, consultation or mediation. A small half is developed by researchers, while the other comes from public institutions, associations and companies, which involve a very varied audience: elected officials, community agents, students, farmers, citizens, etc.

“It is becoming the fashionable tool and therefore there is now a business behind it, which raises questions about certain uses”, however warns Sylvain Dernat. The game is not ” useful “he insists, only if it is combined with other tools and above all support over time. “Making a single three-hour session isn’t the most effective because participants don’t always understand how to move from play to action afterwards. » For example, Gamae has supported cheese producers to help them better cope with climate change and manage difficulties in the sector, in particular through consultation games between farmers, elected officials and citizens (such as the game La Grange), d decision-making aids (Lauracle) and simulations of new practices (Le Rami fourrager).

Changes in practices

Serious games, by reproducing realities in a simplified way, offer a space to step aside. “They allow us to extract ourselves a little from the balance of power and to collectively explore a new future. It’s a bit like when you do theatre.compares Nicolas Becu, director of research (CNRS) in geography at La Rochelle University. “The games put the participants in a situation to innovate, to find new solutions”adds Claude Garcia, professor of forest management at the University of Applied Sciences in Bern (Switzerland) and first author of a study published in Nature on the impact of serious games on public environmental policies.