“Play with fire”: a serious game igniting wildfire risk awareness

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In recent years, wildfires have become a growing concern globally, and even countries like the Netherlands, known for its wet climate, are not immune to this threat. Recognizing the need to evaluate and raise awareness of wildfire risks among the general public, our partner from Wageningen University, is actively working on the FIRE-RES project. As part of this project, the Wageningen team developed a serious game called “Play with Fire.” The game aims to evaluate and educate players about wildfire risk, leveraging the power of experiential learning to foster a deeper understanding of this pressing issue.

understanding the game

“Play with Fire” is a puzzle-based serious game that encourages players to collaboratively solve a landscape puzzle consisting of 49 hexagons. Each hexagon represents different variables that, when combined in specific ways, can create conditions favourable or unfavourable to the outbreak of a wildfire. The objective of the game is for players to work together, utilizing their knowledge and intuition, to arrange the hexagons in a manner that minimizes the fire risk within the landscape.

beyond the puzzle

The gameplay sessions of “Play with Fire” go beyond merely solving the puzzle. Participants engage in discussions, sharing strategies, and interpreting real-world implications of their actions. The sessions adhere to ethical research standards, including informed consent and personal data protection, ensuring a safe and inclusive environment for all players involved. 

successful sessions and public reception

Two sessions of “Play with Fire” took place at the municipal library in Wageningen on 18 and 22 April 2023. These sessions were made possible thanks to the support of the Stat Lab Wageningen. Fifteen enthusiastic participants attended the sessions and expressed their enjoyment in learning about wildfires. Feedback from participants included comments such as “very fun and educational!” and “nicely worked out and interesting to hear examples from the real world.” These positive responses underscore the potential of serious games to effectively raise awareness of critical issues.

Following the game’s  success, the Wageningen University plans to conduct additional sessions of “Play with Fire” to gather both quantitative and qualitative data. These data will provide valuable insights into the current levels of wildfire risk awareness within society and help in further refining the game’s impact. By employing experiential learning through gaming, the Wageningen University aims to foster a sense of ownership and responsibility among players, empowering them to actively contribute to mitigating wildfire risks. As society faces increasing challenges posed by wildfires, serious games like “Play with Fire” offer a promising avenue to bridge the knowledge gap, empowering individuals to make informed decisions and take proactive measures in mitigating wildfire risks.

Author: Elena Feo (Euromontana). Contributor: Julissa Galarza (Wageningen University)