Forest Game

Save favourite 20 Dec December 2017

The use of natural resources includes taking many different values into account, reflecting the three different aspects of sustainability; economy, environment and social values

So far, the tradeoffs involved have been subject to mainly qualitative discussions on how to find some kind of acceptable compromise. The outcome of these discussions is often strongly biased depending on the strength of the actors, where those representing the economical side often have the upper hand. Some more quantitative and mathematical approaches also exist (e.g. optimization theory). Although representing an opportunity for a more unbiased outcome, they easily become very complex problems to solve mathematically and depend on the details of how the problem is formulated.

An approach so far not so much explored, is to view land-use conflicts as a "game". Games have the potential to include many variables and complex sets of relations and which can help the players to better understand the effects of the choices made by the different land managers and decision makers. To set up such a game requires expertise both in gaming and specific knowledge of the land-use conflict itself. The visualization of the game and the outcome is critical if the results are to be possible to access for people not specialized in the field.  

More about the project and goals

Forests cover about 1/3 of the European land area and are a key resource for a large industry. At the same time, forests represent important areas for biodiversity (plants and animals) and contain many cultural and social values – values that are threatened by large-scale industrial forestry and may be in conflict with other land-use such as agriculture. As such, it represents a clear example on land-use conflicts. Here, new tools based on gaming could help to illustrate some of the key challenges.

A game is to be developed that include a larger landscape (real or imaginary) where different management units should be assigned to a treatment category which then influence the value from economic, environmental and social aspects. The identification of these values and the land-use alternatives are a part of the project. These will then need to be implemented in a game with as much realism as possible while considering game dynamics. Finally, besides being relevant the game should preferably be attractive and fun to play.

Study areas

This project targets a number of different study areas. While each study area contributes with an individual expertise to the project outcome, interaction between the study areas is required in order to achieve a successful project result. A dream team for the project should include students with skills or wanting to develop skills in ecology, environmental science, game development, graphic design, communication, business management, political science.

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Bengt Gunnar Jonsson, Mid Sweden University

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Recomended reading material

Under the cover of the Swedish forestry modelListen - The report from the SSNC obviously give a very different picture and taken together I think they illustrate the situation well. I hope these will give you some ideas on what kind of game could be developed.

To help you getting acquainted with the issues of the game we provide a link to a movie from the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences and attach a report from the Swedish Society for Nature Conservation (SSNC): -

The movie cause a lot of heated debate since it was done on a request directly from the Minister of Agriculture and is really a commercial over how well we manage our Swedish forests.

This is not really what a University should do – to speak on behalf of the government and advertise a perceived success when in reality there are many unresolved issues and contrasting opinions. You could tell the story of Swedish forests in very different ways! Yet, it does provide some insight into the Swedish situation.