University of California, Davis, USA
This paper uses a wildfire evacuation preparedness initiative in the community of Bolinas, California as a way to illustrate how serious games can be used as prototypes for complex challenges. Wildfires are systemic events, and the speed, complexity, and scale of evacuations makes it very difficult to explore these types of scenarios in iterative and low-risk ways. The result is that policy makers are rarely able to test their policies and future evacuees do not have opportunities to experience how they might respond, communicate, and make decisions until they are in the midst of a life-threatening situation. The paper describes how a team of designers, civil engineers, and policy experts used games-as-prototypes to communicate best practices and explore the broader context of evacuations in Bolinas. The project demonstrates the ways the game Bolinas Resilience was used to translate the complexity and abstraction of systemic challenges into visceral, embodied experiences. The benefits of a game-as-prototype are discussed as well as the approaches that are required to design and evaluate this expanded form of prototyping.