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Working Groups: Sustainability Game

Vancouver Meeting Highlights Digital Game for Ethics Education

One of the classic environmental dilemmas is the Tragedy of the Commons, where individuals acting independently and rationally deplete a common resource, despite their understanding that it is not in the group’s long term best interest to do so.  This problem describes the overexploitation of ‘common pool resources’ such as fisheries, national parks, and global warming. Now, attendees at SETAC Vancouver will have the opportunity to personally experience a virtual Tragedy of the Commons by taking part in The Sustainability Games Workshop and playing the Pisces Game.

The Pisces Game simulates the Tragedy of the Commons problem occurring in places like Lake Victoria -- the second largest freshwater lake in the world.  Abutted by Uganda, Kenya, and Tanzania, Lake Victoria was once supplied fisherman with an abundance of fish to catch, sell, and eat – but now is threatened by overfishing. For example, the Lake Victoria Fisheries Organization (LVFO) estimates that stocks of Nile perch have decreased over the past decade from 1.9 million tons to only 600,000 tons in 2009, causing severe negative ramifications in the local economy.


Lake Victoria: A tragedy of the commons from Owen Kibenge on Vimeo.

To simulate the sustainability challenges of Lake Victoria, as well as many other common-pool resource problems, The Pisces Game at SETAC Vancouver will organizes participants into ‘fishing villages’ that share a common lake for survival. Players fish from the shared lake and make decisions related to fish conservation, consumption, capital investment, trading, or other transfers. The group that performs the best at the end of the game will win a prize! 

Unlike some classic game-theoretic problem simulations like the Prisoner’s Dilemma, The Pisces Game encourages communication between players.  However, to simulate the communications technologies that currently dominate business in developing countries like Uganda, The Pisces Game in SETAC Vancouver will be played on cell phones, using SMS messaging (i.e., Twitter).  By tweeting short messages, players are expected to obtain critically important information, bargain and trade, enter commands, and otherwise coordinate actions to avoid collapse of the supporting ‘ecosystem’.

The Pisces Game has been played in dozens of classrooms throughout the world, including Mountains of the Moon University in Uganda, the Management Development Institute in India and several Universities in the United States, including Arizona State, Rochester Institute of Technology, Northeastern University, Michigan State, and University of Colorado at Boulder.  In class, students are expected to confront the salient moral questions that arise during game-play, including: "What are my obligations to others?  What am I willing to risk in my own sense of well-being to meet these obligations?"

SETAC participants are expected to obtain a greater understanding of the human dimensions of sustainability problems, such as diverse values and worldviews, social media skills related to leadership, teamwork, negotiation, and empathy, and (if the classroom experience is any indication) may discover relevant insights into their own or others’ moral character.

The game begins Tuesday, November 11th (1:00 - 4:15 PM, Room 119-120) when the game Instructors, Drs. Thomas P Seager and Susan Spierre Clark, will introduce participants to Twitter, the game interface, and the basic game problem. Players will participate on a continuous basis for the next two days of the conference. On Thursday, November 13th (11:30 to 12:30 PM, Room 119-120) players will reconvene for a reflective discussion, prize distribution, and closing remarks. If experience is any guide, the discussion after the game promises to be fascinating, educational, challenging and probably just as much fun as the game itself. 

To indicate your interest in participating in The Pisces Game, please join The Sustainability Games Working Group by clicking 'Join Group' at the top of this page (you must be logged in to the SETAC site to join) or to register please visit this page;

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Jennifer Rhoades joined the group Working Groups: Sustainability Game.
Posted Tuesday, September 16, 2014
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Posted Friday, August 01, 2014
Diane Henshel joined the group Working Groups: Sustainability Game.
Posted Tuesday, July 29, 2014
Terresa Daugherty registered for the event Working Groups: Sustainability: A Digital Game for Ethics Education.
Posted Wednesday, July 09, 2014
Terresa Daugherty joined the group Working Groups: Sustainability Game.
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Working Groups: Sustainability: A Digital Game for Ethics Education
Tuesday, November 11, 2014


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