Freelance journalist, SciDev.Net
A conference on community-based adaptation to climate change in Dhaka, Bangladesh, is in lock down because of a hartal, or general strike, which aims to bring commercial life in the city to a halt. The strike makes it risky to leave the hotel that is staging the meeting and where most participants are staying. Demonstrators use sticks and stones and occasionally fire to enforce their action, and the conference hotel has strongly recommended guests not leave the premises during the 36-hour protest.
That solves the problem faced by all such conferences of participants going for walks or shopping and failing to attend sessions on time. But the organisers have provided in-house entertainment with a number of out of the box sessions, the star of which was a climate change game under development by game champion Pablo Suarez. For more than an hour groups of participants representing communities, doctors and governments rolled dice, jumped up, sat down, made instant decisions and gambled beans competing fiercely with each other and with the clock.
The extraordinary thing about such games is how quickly players of all genders, cultures and roles assume the identities they have been assigned and enter into the spirit of role-play.
Suarez, associate director for research and innovation for the Red Cross/Red Crescent Climate Centre and a member of the Games for A New Climate Taskforce is an enthusiastic proponent of games, which he says are an entertaining and effective way of learning.
They can elicit behaviour that is likely to happen in the real world, he says, and can vividly illustrate elements such as complexity, risk and unexpected events Knowing what is likely to happen is useful but is not enough.
He says that serious games involve brain power and emotions, and everyone engages.
Judging by the whoops of excitement from the winning groups and the buzz and applause at the end of the session, every conference needs a game.
In a later session, a comment by Gareth Jones of Oxfam introduced a different form of reality. He told the organisers that the proceedings were engendering a sense of false optimism. True, said conference host Saleemul Huq, but we wouldn’t be here if we were not optimistic.
This blog post is part of SciDev.Net’s coverage of International Conference on Community-based Adaptation which takes place 22-25 April 2013, in Dhaka, Bangladesh. To read further news and analysis please visit our website.