Extreme Event is a social game that connects people of diverse backgrounds with each other and with the real-life challenges of disasters. In the game, players take on roles across sectors in a fictitious community to invest in resources, negotiate with others in their city, and tackle disaster-related challenges.
Players begin the game in sector groups, representing businesses, government, first responders, and local citizens. They build relationships with each other while selecting resources to support their city’s resilience. An unexpected storm arrives and players are forced to regroup into neighborhoods with completely new team members. These new groups must leverage their previous connections to get the right resources moved throughout the city so that each neighborhood can complete their challenge. This is the core mechanic that drives home the game’s learning outcomes about the importance of building community coalitions before disasters strike. Players’ post-game responses to a survey question about the key messages they walked away with highlights this:
“[I learned] how coalitions respond to disasters mentally. We need stronger communication and networking.” (player)
“Tackling disasters is never easy. Communication is key during a disaster and you never have all the resources you need.” (player)
Person-to-person interaction is further reinforced by the design of the game. We designed the digital tool using shallow interaction patterns, including a flat site architecture and in-line modal windows that prevent players from getting distracted. These design patterns promote positive social behaviors, like connecting directly with the people around you instead of with a technical device. We also maintained paper materials for the game, like character badges, resource cards, and challenge board to help players create a physical connection with one another vis-a-vis physical game artifacts.
The facilitator’s role and digital experience brings everything together. We created a pick-up-and-play tool for facilitators to easily facilitate a game regardless of their background knowledge in disaster resilience. The tool incorporates a scrollable script on one side of the screen with an action panel on the other side. Using the action panel, facilitators connect with each sector and neighborhood, pushing information and surprise challenges at just the right time. The game ends with a facilitator-led discussion (provided in the script) that helps players connect the game’s mechanics and narrative to real life. Players and facilitators find this reflective discussion critical for driving home the learning outcomes. This facilitator’s comment highlights the critical role of the discussion:
“There were many contributors to our Adapt Phase reflective discussion. My students brought up the really key resiliency concepts that I was hoping they would learn. They even tied it back to our own campus situation without being prompted.” (facilitator)
Extreme Event teaches key lessons about resilience in an innovative and inclusive way. It emphasizes the importance of making connections through community coalitions and shows how critical long-term resources are in helping to create a more resilient future for everyone.