A “Serious Game” to Explore Possible Forest Futures

Research Issue

IMPACT: A a foresight game - Forestry Edition - example game board configuration.Thinking effectively about the future is difficult. But thinking about the future is key to being prepared for the many possible changes that will come, and it is a skill we can learn. Learning to think more productively about the future, and the future of forests and forestry, increases the possibility of achieving sustainability.

Our Research

One way to learn to effectively think about the future of forests is through games. The use of games to achieve serious goals has a long history, dating back at least to war games played on paper maps during the Middle Ages. Five people playing IMPACT: A a foresight game - Forestry Edition.Serious games have proliferated and have been applied in diverse areas such as education, national security, health care, urban planning, and natural resource planning and management. The purposes of these games include engaging communities, teaching or training participants, informing planning, solving real-world problems, and – of course – fun.

We adapted IMPACT: A Foresight Game created by Idea Couture to a game that focuses on forests. Players take on an avatar with a forestry job of the future – like experience concierge or bug wrangler – and play impact cards to achieve the desired future condition for their avatar. Each impact is based on real-world events that signal change in one of ten domains: forest ecosystems, water, recreation, community & culture, energy, work, transportation, medicine & wellness, forest products, and food, agriculture & ranching. Disrupter cards create significant change immediately – these are the wild cards.

Expected Outcomes

Through playing IMPACT: Forestry Edition, players see future possibilities and the intricate, intertwined impacts across society on forests and the goods and services they provide us.

Research Results

Bengston, David N.; Westphal, Lynne M.; Dockry, Michael J.; Crabtree, Jason. 2021. A "serious game" to explore alternative forestry futures. Journal of Forestry. 5 p. https://doi.org/10.1093/jofore/fvab059

Research Participants

Principal Investigators

  • David Bengston, USDA-Forest Service- Northern Research Staton Research Forester
  • Lynne M. Westphal, USDA-Forest Service- Northern Research Staton Research Social Scientist

Research Partners

  • Last modified: February 24, 2022