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Working Groups: Sustainability Game

Sustainability Game: Tragedy of the Commons
Digital Game for Ethics Education

The game has been cancelled for SETAC Vancouver. Stay tuned for future opportunities to play this game.

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.

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 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 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?"

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.

Group Feed
Chien-Min Chen joined the group Working Groups: Sustainability Game.
Posted Monday, January 2, 2017
Clara Rosalia Alvarez joined the group Working Groups: Sustainability Game.
Posted Tuesday, June 14, 2016
Sabine E. Apitz joined the group Working Groups: Sustainability Game.
Posted Thursday, February 18, 2016
Saptashati Biswas joined the group Working Groups: Sustainability Game.
Posted Wednesday, February 3, 2016
Brent N. Tweedy joined the group Working Groups: Sustainability Game.
Posted Sunday, January 31, 2016
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