Using a board game to plan for a changing planet
Called Marae-opoly, the Māori community designed the game in partnership with researchers from New Zealand’s National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA) with the explicit goal of helping the hapū decide how to manage the flood risk to their marae. While the researchers from NIWA contributed scientific data about known flood risks and projected climate change effects, the hapū brought their own experiences and values to the table during game development brainstorming sessions.
“Brainstorming is really important,” says Paula Blackett, a social scientist at NIWA who co-designed Marae-opoly. “It allows people to express their thoughts on what could be done [to address the flood risk], and why. It’s quite an inclusive approach because you consider all of the different things that could be possible.”
A turn in Marae-opoly plays out in several steps. First, teams debate how to address the flood risk and choose to either make the marae more flood resistant by waterproofing buildings, raising the flood banks, or improving drainage works; move its location; or wait and save money. In each round, a random “rainmaker” event reflecting the real odds of extreme weather determines the rainfall for that decade. Sometimes the team is hit by a devastating flood, other times it is dry, but it is impossible to predict what will happen when. Turns go on like this until players have experienced 100 years of climate change, with the decisions they made early on compounding over time.