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Serious Analogue Games as DS
Leiria, Portugal

Serious Analogue Games for Decision-Making and Collaborative Planning

Decision-making is a serious matter. One simple decision can impact our life and constrain future choices. When we aim to address democratic decision-making, several dimensions emerge. This approach departs from ideological premises that people have the right to choose and that those choices can be correct.

Departing from these philosophic and ideological influences, spatial planning research and practice is trying to enlarge the participation of citizens, stakeholders, and more people than before in planning processes. To achieve this goal planning practitioners need adequate tools. Flexibility is important because each context might require different approaches. Independently of this, these participatory processes should engage participants, allow them to express their claims, and learn from other participants and experts, while generating solutions. Decision-making should be unconstrained but based on learning and the openness to negotiate and collaborate. Collaborative planning is the way to achieve it.

Thus, how to do this? The research focused on the use of serious games, analog, physical, and face-to-face approaches. Planning practitioners can develop game-based planning processes to engage participants. They can deliver new learning and testing spaces for collective decision-making. Modern board/tabletop game designs are fit to support these approaches, avoiding the complexity and cost of digital game development. These analog games are easy to prototype when mastering game design elements. Serious games can be done when game systems are defined to achieve goals like fostering collaboration and achieving a planning solution for a given problem or project. Playing these face-to-face games, making decisions, and interacting with objects foster tangibility, participants socialization and collaboration. It increases the community resilience for future challenges.


UrbSecurity game-based planning session (c) Micael Sousa

This research on serious planning games is being conducted through board/tabletop games  and has led to several experiments. Some are fast approaches, where participants are invited to engage in games to address topics like a local transport system. Others like the UrbSecurity project led to several co-design serious game sessions where the game itself resulted from priorities and implemented decision-making tools to manage a municipal budget regarding improving the overall security of an urban area. These games have been used in several classes with university students, testing interactive urban models and the differences between digital and analogue games as tools for urban planning practices. Another example of practical implementation of these serious game approaches is combining game design practices with the planning tools like drawings, which can be useful to fill the gap between game design and planning expertise.


Practical implementations and projects are emerging. Analogue games are even less considered, despite the growing impact of the modern tabletop game industry and the many successful analogue serious games.

Outputs [P] [C] [O] [E]

[P6] Sousa, M, Antunes, A, Pinto, N & Zagalo, N 2021, 'Fast serious analogue games in planning: the role of non-player participants', Simulation & Gaming.

Project partners

The project is funded by a doctoral scholarship of the Portuguese Fundação para a Ciência e Tecnologia and is part of a consortium of Local Authorities in eight European  countries, led by the city of Leiria, Portugal

Research Team

The doctoral research project is lead by Mr Micael Sousa (CITTA, University of Coimbra) under the supervision of Prof. António Antunes (University of Coimbra, Portugal), Dr Nuno Pinto and Dr Nélson Zagalo (University of Aveiro, Portugal).

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