With great success (but little fanfare), we unveiled our new wildfire game last week. Thanks to Napa Valley Grapegrowers, we play-tested our design at the Napa Fire Resources Fair on April 11.
Our goal for the event was to give people a taste of how we use games and experiential learning to spread social resilience and disaster preparedness. We wanted to pique curiosity and have people walk away wanting more, and help each participant decide on one thing they want to do to prepare for wildfire.
We succeeded beyond our most optimistic dreams.
Everyone who played the game happily spent 15-20 minutes at our table, and took away at least one insight. After playing the game, Caroline Feuchuk remarked that,
“I love that you didn’t make me feel bad about not having a leave-kit, or whatever.”
She was excited about going home and preparing a go-bag with her husband. Another participant, who lost his home in the 2017 fires, offered encouragement,
“I know what you’re trying to do with this, and it’s great!”
In addition to participants’ enthusiasm, three local organizations want to talk about how they can use the game and approach in their trainings. FEMA even asked if we were selling it!
This response was more than we even hoped for! Participants’ delight reinforced our conviction that fun is more motivating than fear. The interest of other organizations showed that we are on the right path. Experiential learning and games are powerful tools for spreading social resilience and disaster preparedness!
We look forward to presenting an improved version of the game at our next event: May 6 at the Fire & Earthquake Safety Expo in Healdsburg CA.
Come play with us!
Special thanks to the game design experts who contributed their ideas and insights:
- Gary Milante, for opening our eyes to the many ways we can take this to the next level, and great support and insights on the day!
- Joe Lasley, for immediately opening our thinking on game design to go beyond RPG. That eventually allowed us to settle on a very visual board game.
- Gijs van Bilsen, for guiding us to fun and approachable ways to integrate players’ knowledge, suggesting using cute tokens to help people step away from fear, and suggesting that we start by letting people personalize their “character.” That all led to starting using tokens to explain their household, and eventually, moving pets, family members, and bags around in a little lego “car.”
- Aaron Vanek & Antonio Ruiz Ezquerro, for brainstorming a wide range of possible game mechanics with us, and helping us to find a way to incorporate a physical takeaway into game play. That led us to incorporate chance (in the form of The Wheel of Fate), and making sure we had a clear but simple game narrative.
- Amanda Giampetro, for great suggestions on improving our process!
- Claus Raasted, for pushing us to simplify, simplify, simplify, and keeping us focused on the player experience (rather than the learning outcome).