Dyke Dynamics: serious game for climate-neutral dykes

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With sustainable dyke designs, we are preparing for the consequences of climate change, such as sea-level rise and more extreme weather. Dykes not only need to withstand current conditions, but also future changes. To stimulate creativity and innovation, Witteveen+Bos has devised a serious game to look up to 150 years ahead.

‘Dyke Dynamics’ was created for and with all stakeholders involved in dyke reinforcement projects. The game can be played by local residents, policy makers, water authorities and project engineers. The aim is to build a sustainable dyke that remains reliable for 150 years with minimal environmental impact. The winner is the player who accumulates the most environmental points (through sustainable constructions according to ECI measurements), on the condition that the dyke holds up.

Environmental points can be earned by using sustainable materials, minimising maintenance and applying innovations. During the game, each player must strengthen his or her dyke with soil or sheet piles. Every choice made by the player affects reliability, the environment and costs. Players roll a dice to simulate events such as drought and rising water and respond to action cards that influence the construction of the dyke.

The cards confront players with innovations, challenges and benefits, such as vibration-free installation, archaeological finds and bat nests, floral revetments and price increases of building materials. The challenge is to make trade-offs between long-term and short-term effects, because solutions that are sustainable in the short term may not be so in the long term. Or vice versa.

Developed in co-creation

To come up with a game that was as realistic as it was challenging, we organised co-creation sessions with all stakeholders. This close collaboration provided insight into the various types of players and important information for the crucial game elements. The main discovery was that a serious game can play an initiating formative role in making decisions for dyke designs with a view to the long term.

When it comes to climate-neutral dykes, it is essential to look as far ahead as possible. Dyke Dynamics offers players an interactive, experimental arena to explore various scenarios and to test their decisions. It ensures constructive dialogues with stakeholders and supported solutions. Together with experts from the dyke construction sector, we arrived at a realistic depiction of the dykes, the possible future scenarios and the complexities involved in water protection.

Or, as a geotechnical engineer aptly put it, ‘Strengthening a dyke beyond the dyke itself often means encroaching on Natura 2000 areas, resulting in this not really being a viable option. You are therefore forced to find solutions within the current space requirements of the dyke. In which case, you quickly end up with sheet piling, which are themselves quite damaging to the environment.’