A game-based engagement tool for rural resilience planning.

Across the Midwest, severe drought and flooding, combined with rising temperatures, have already impacted crops and livestock—shifting planting and harvesting times as well as damaging rural infrastructure. In 2019 some regions of the Midwest saw up to 600% normal amount of precipitation. The resulting historic flooding prevented farmers from planting nearly 20 million acres of insurable crops. The increasing frequency and intensity of such extreme weather events will continue to accelerate crop losses, while threatening to exacerbate existing environmental challenges like aquatic dead zones and harmful algal blooms. Meanwhile, global market volatility and low commodity prices further threaten the sustainability of agricultural systems.

Serious Games
The magnitude of these challenges demands a scale of response beyond the reach of any single agency, company, or landowner. Any adaptation or resilience effort, no matter how large or small, generates new relationships among diverse publics. Each approach creates new pools of shared interest among stakeholders, defines zones of protection within communities, and determines who will (and will not) benefit. Communities that face extreme weather impacts therefore need to build consensus through community-centered collaboration.

Design research suggests that serious games and simulation based engagement tools can be effective ways to engage diverse stakeholders in complex problem solving. In serious games, concepts are abstracted through gamification and combined with game elements to create immersive scenes for experiential learning. Psycologist Elizabeth Boyle Notes that serious games are useful in facilitating “learning that is active, experiential, situated, problem-based, and provides immediate feedback.”

As extreme weather promises to reshape agricultural landscapes in the coming century, this workshop seeks to identify opportunities for serious game design to facilitate rural resilience planning. This participatory research-design process begins with a focus on Ohio. However, it will generate findings that help us better understand the opportunities for and barriers to landscape architectural engagement with production agriculture in the Midwest region and across North-America.