Decision making and change: the role of games

Purpose: To demonstrate how games based on models can assist decision making and change on complex problems.

Description: This video demonstrates how well-designed games, with skilled facilitation, empower players to make better decisions. When those with power to make change are the players, games can assist in finding innovative ways to make progress on difficult issues.

The basis premise for using games stems from the inability of models to incorporate decision making, even though models are effective at describing how things work.

Transforming models into games and inviting stakeholders to play allows the players to become part of the model. They bring with them their emotions, knowledge and beliefs, values and capacity to understand. The last of these is particularly important “– that rush that happens when you realise something, when things suddenly make sense – and all the new ideas that will stem from that – new ways of looking at things, new ways of doing things.”

Typically building an effective model requires intensive immersion in the community experiencing the problem. The game then allows the players to enact a particular scenario. Typically, everyone joins in and becomes fully immersed in responding to the problem – “the players to live through the experience completely.”

The important learning experience occurs after the game, when what happened is discussed with the players. Players are asked to reflect on successes and failures, strategies used and which of these worked. In the process the modellers also learn how adequately the game captured the stakeholders’ reality.

This is also known as a companion modelling approach (


  1. “Wicked games: Using games to resolve environmental conflicts” by Claude Garcia was a talk at ‘TEDx’, Zurich, Switzerland in 2018. Video (14 minutes) online at either:
    1., or
    2. YouTube:
  2. Transcript of Garcia, C. (2018). My TedX Talk: Wicked Games and Environmental Issues. 16 November, SRF Studios, Zurich, Switzerland. (Online):
  3. See also Garcia, C. (2019) Power, games and freedom (Online):

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Posted: August 2019
Last modified: August 2019