Virtual worlds like those of Minecraft and SimCity could be used to help test potential new water infrastructure development in the UK. Experts from the University of Exeter are trialling a computer platform where water engineers can simulate how existing and prospective new water systems will cope with issues, threats and risk, such as land management and flooding. They believe the approach could help alleviate situations such as the flooding that swept the Somerset levels earlier this year, by allowing stakeholders to work through potential threats and mitigation options in a virtual environment.
Professor Dragan Savic, expert in the field of hydroinformatics at the University of Exeter, explained: “Understanding water and its interdependencies with food, energy and the environment is vital if water is to be managed effectively and efficiently.
He added, “Our project will contribute to better management of this complex system by investigating a serious gaming approach – called the nexus game – as the basis for developing more effective and timely infrastructure policy and decisions at various local, regional, national and temporal scales.”
The use of serious games – or decision games – allows users to experience situations that are impossible in the real world for reasons of safety, cost, time or their rare occurrence. The nexus game will focus on the interplay of the infrastructure and the nexus in the UK and will consist of a number of roles, which include policymakers or government, residents, farmers, businesses, water utilities and city planners.
The game will be used not only to analyse infrastructure policy options under conditions of uncertainty, but also for educational and capacity building purposes.