Energy Safari – a serious game for the energy transition

Serious game familiarising players with the energy transition policies in the province of Groningen. Developed as part of my doctoral research, through a series of co-creation sessions in the framework of the JPI Urban Europe project ‘Playing with Urban Complexity – Using co-located serious games to reduce the urban carbon footprint among young adults’, 2014-2018

Game board of the serious game Energy Safari, showing an hexagonal map with colourful areas. Flags mark the locations where energy projects are realised.
Energy Safari at the Games for Cities pop-up exhibition at Het Nieuwe Instituut, in October 2016.

Energy Safari is a serious board game about the Energy Transition in Groningen, the Netherlands. The game aims (i) to communicate the complexity of the energy transition, and the multiple scales in which the transition is operationalised, (ii) to inform the players on the policy vision for the energy transition in the region, (iii) to introduce existing opportunities to engage in local and regional energy projects, and (iv) to stimulate debate and exchange of real-world, personal experiences regarding energy behaviour and social practices. 

Energy Safari is a six-player board game designed for a closed co-located setting and played with the support of a game master. Players move their avatars across the board and seek to realize energy-related projects by finding partners among other players, securing permissions and providing the financing. The specific requirements to fulfil these three steps vary per project and are described in project cards that players draw from a deck depending on their position on the board. Additional elements of the game include joker cards that allow players to overcome certain steps of project realization, rising energy prices and global events that take place at the end of each round, projects’ contingent effects, and interdependencies between neighbouring projects. The game attempts to balance competition and collaboration among players. Players need to achieve individual goals but they need the support of their fellow players. Each realized project provides three types of revenues to the contributing players, leading to three possible winning conditions: a financial revenue in coins, a renewable energy output measured in KWpoints, and a community output, also measured in points, that corresponds to the local social value of each project. At the end of the game players count their resources: the Business Mind is the player with the most coins, the Energy Tycoon is the player with the most KWpoints and the Community King is the player with the most community points. 

I developed Energy Safari during my doctoral research at the University of Groningen through a series of co-creation sessions with local stakeholders involved in the Energy Transition. These included policy-makers from the local government, researchers from urban planning, sociology, architecture and game design, members of citizen energy initiatives, and employees of private utility companies. The prototype that resulted from this process of co-creation, was consequently tested in a series of gameplay sessions in various locations in the city of Groningen, including a cultural space, the premises of the municipality, the university campus and the offices of private companies. The players involved in these sessions consisted of students, members of citizen energy initiatives, policy makers and city officials, researchers of various disciplines and institutions, employees of local utility companies, and others.

Three stages of development of the game prototype.