Rise Up: A time travel game to build strong and engaged communities


Rise Up! enables exploration, learning and discussion of sea level rise adaptation strategies in a collaborative, virtual Metro Vancouver game environment. The game uses time travel to bring the potentially catastrophic consequences of business-as-usual into the players’ present. Insights gained during game play transfer to the real world and will ultimately enhance discussion and decision-making around adaptation strategies.

overview of the idea

The idea is to engage community members in a collaborative virtual game that allows them to explore the impact of different sea level rise adaptation strategies over time; to discuss and merge their efforts with other players; and to propose new strategies. The virtual environment mirrors present-day Metro Vancouver and simulated futures. To address the difficulty that humans have with making long-term decisions under uncertainty, players enter the game in the year 2100 where unattended sea level rise has led to shocking changes in the community.

A sense of urgency is created by bringing the disastrous consequences of sea level rise into the players’ “present” during game play. Using a time machine, players can implement adaptation strategies at different periods in time in an effort to prevent future catastrophes. Gamification of the challenge leverages the problem-solving capability of game players while building experiences and knowledge with transferability to real Metro Vancouver communities. In addition to educational, social and innovation outcomes, a wealth of data on players’ actions and decisions is created during game play. Aggregate data can be analyzed to better understand how people view, learn and adapt to sea level rise challenges, which can then be used to better facilitate change in the future. The option to propose new strategies and discuss them with other players allows for the emergence of novel ideas inside the game with potential applicability to real Metro Vancouver.

how it works

Rise Up! is an online game that uses realistic Metro Vancouver landscape visualization. After signing up, players enter the game in the year 2100 and are presented with the disastrous consequences of unattended sea level rise.

Players are offered a mission that appeals to their desire for an epic win — to save the world and become a celebrated hero. The mission requires players to travel back and forth in time, and implement appropriate strategies that will ensure Metro Vancouver thrives in 2100. After accepting the mission, players can travel freely along the time axis between 2014 and 2100 to view the “reality” of coastal areas in each selected year and to explore the impact of specific adaptation strategies. Players try to maximize their game score, which reflects the benefits and costs of their chosen strategies over time. The concept of knowledge coins, or K-coins, is introduced to represent a player’s knowledge of adaptation strategies and local issues. Players can propose novel strategies which, if they attract a minimum number of support votes from other players, will be reviewed by game coordinators.

To implement novel or controversial strategies, players need to possess a minimum amount of K-coins. To boost their knowledge, players accumulate K-coins by reading newspapers and watching news clips from the selected year. This process will deepen their knowledge about sea level rise beyond the virtual world, and foster a shared understanding that will lead to more informed and accelerated decision-making in real Metro Vancouver.


The idea behind RiseUp!

A 6-minute narrated PowerPoint Show that introduces the thinking behind RiseUp! and explains why a game approach is so powerful for this challenge.

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Explaining the time-travel console

An 8-minute narrated PowerPoint Show that provides a detailed description of the time-travel console.

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A 2-minute narrated PowerPoint Show that summarizes the main points of the idea.

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Gaming can make the world a better place

Have a look at this excellent TED talk by Jane McGonigal where she provides compelling arguments on why games can make the world a better place.

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How communities will adapt and thrive

Rise Up! will improve Metro Vancouver’s ability to choose and implement appropriate adaptation strategies in a timely manner by providing community members and other stakeholders with an increased understanding of the urgency, opportunities and challenges that sea level rise poses to their community. Equipped with hands-on experience of how different strategies work together when combined at different times, players gain an appreciation of the complexity of the challenge that will affect their real-world views and decisions.

By providing a mechanism for potentially thousands of players to interact and share their thoughts and strategies during the game, the game creates a collaborative problem solving community that marries scenario modeling and computer simulation with human ingenuity and creativity — in my belief, the most important assets for successful adaptation in an uncertain world. Having players explore strategies collaboratively across different geographic areas and municipalities will produce synergies and point out cross-pollination opportunities between areas that face similar challenges.

Learning experiences and insights gained during the game will persist outside the virtual world and create a knowledgeable Metro Vancouver community that is engaged in local sea level rise adaptation and discussion. This will strengthen the community and translate into more efficient decision-making processes, ultimately lifting Metro Vancouver’s ability to adapt and thrive as a community to a higher level.

Community Summit Premier Sponsor

SFU Public Square Founding Council Member

Stephen A. Jarislowsky

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