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Prototyping Resilience: Using games to engage communities in disaster response

Format: Papers, RSD9, Topic: Methods & Methodology

Thomas Maiorana

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.

Citation Data

Author(s): Author: Thomas Maiorana
Title: Prototyping Resilience: Using games to engage communities in disaster response
Published in: Proceedings of Relating Systems Thinking and Design
Article No.:
Symposium Dates:
First published: 4 October 2020
Last update:
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Proceedings of Relating Systems Thinking and Design (ISSN 2371-8404) are published annually by the Systemic Design Association, a non-profit scholarly association leading the research and practice of design for complex systems: 3803 Tønsberg, Norway (922 275 696).


Open Access article published under the CC-BY-NC-ND 4.0 International License. This permits anyone to copy and redistribute the material in any medium or form according to the licence terms.

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