Part of the
Design United
TU DelftTU EindhovenUniversity of TwenteWageningen University
Design United


+31(0)6 48 27 55 61


HomeProjectsVirtual River Game

Virtual River Game

Robert-Jan den Haan, Fedor Baart, Mascha van der Voort

Can we make computational models interactive and accessible to all?

Envisioning possible futures in the face of climate change requires people to share perspectives, explore courses of action, and develop a shared understanding of challenges and possible solutions. This however cannot happen on its own: everyone is affected and has an interest, from scientists to citizens or from policy-makers to farmers.

Designing an interaction therefore needs to carefully consider how to bridge different backgrounds and fields of expertise to ensure that people can all meaningfully participate in and contribute to any discussion. 

The Virtual River Game is designed as a multiplayer serious game on managing rivers. In the game, players collaboratively explore and experiment with different riverine interventions to prevent future flooding, while restoring the river’s ecological value.

Rooted in tangible interaction, the game’s key innovative element is its entirely physical game board – representing a section of river including floodplains and dikes – linked to e.g. a digital elevation model and computational models used in river management practice. Players change game pieces on the board to apply interventions, so they need no experience of the underlying models in order to work with them. The computed effects are then projected back onto the game board and are shown in other forms on the game’s screen.

The game’s design provides a level playing field for players, meaning real-life experts and non-experts can ‘safely’ experiment with potential solutions.

The game has been used both in game sessions to engage stakeholders as well as at many symposia as a demonstrator. Published results from the game sessions show that the game is successful in engaging both experts and non-experts. Moreover, players indicated that they learned both from the game and from each other.

The success of the game and the key qualities of the physical-digital interface combination has led to new research, exploring new game designs that build on the Virtual River Game’s design principles.

“Players see computed effects visualized when they made changes on the game’s board”

Twitter: @erjeetjeh 

#seriousgaming #tangibleinteraction


Participating universities

Related projects
All projects