A review of serious games for urban water management decisions: current gaps and future research directions

A. Mittal*, L. Scholten, Z. Kapelan

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)
73 Downloads (Pure)


Urban water management (UWM) is a complex problem characterized by multiple alternatives, conflicting objectives, and multiple uncertainties about key drivers like climate change, population growth, and increasing urbanization. Serious games are becoming a popular means to support decision-makers who are responsible for the planning and management of urban water systems. This is evident in the increasing number of articles about serious games in recent years. However, the effectiveness of these games in improving decision-making and the quality of their design and evaluation approaches remains unclear. To understand this better, in this paper, we identified 41 serious games covering the urban water cycle. Of these games, 15 were shortlisted for a detailed review. By using common rational decision-making and game design phases from literature, we evaluated and mapped how the shortlisted games contribute to these phases. Our research shows that current serious game applications have multiple limitations: lack of focus on executing the initial phases of decision-making, limited use of storytelling and adaptive game elements, use of low-quality evaluation design and explicit indicators to measure game outcomes, and lastly, lack of attention to cognitive processes of players playing the game. Addressing these limitations is critical for advancing purposeful game design supporting UWM.
Original languageEnglish
Article number118217
Number of pages13
JournalWater Research
Issue number118217
Publication statusPublished - 2022


  • Decision analysis
  • Urban water systems
  • Long-term planning
  • Serious games
  • Design
  • Evaluation


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