Lessons from four case studies using games for social learning in India
Lessons Learnt from Four Case
Studies Using Games for Social
Learning in India
31st Triennial International Conference of Agricultural Economists
17 to 31 August 2021
Thomas Falk, Wei Zhang, Ruth Meinzen-Dick, Lara Bartels
Experimental Games for Experiential Learning
• Usually used to
to collective action
• Can games be used
• How to design
games for serving
Outcomes of Games
Game States Year # habitations Outcomes
Andhra Pradesh 2013,
17 Some effect on attitudes
Communities more likely to adopt water registers &
rules for groundwater *
Surface water Rajasthan
Communities more likely brought swelling water
conflicts to the table and engaged in dam
maintenance activities *
184 Total 3357 farmers adopted less water consumptive
crops or varieties and irrigation scheduling to save
Forest game Andhra Pradesh
*Compared to randomly selected control communities where game has no been played
**Compared to farmers’ reported behavior, prior to the games
• Groups of 5 men or women
• Choose crop A or B with different water use &
• See effect on water table
• Multiple years, with and without
• Individual or community payments
• How this relates to own experiences and
• Lessons and insights the participants gained
from the experience
• Possible solutions
Surface Water Game
• Players individually decide on
contributions to dam
• Benefits from dam depend on
total investment of all group
• Sequential access of players
according to player position
(first player takes first, second
takes from what is left and
• Community debriefing.
Net return per
ha in INR
Water requirement per
ha in cum
Wheat 15000 5500
Gram 13000 3000
Key aspects of Game Design
1. Accuracy, complexity, and flexibility of the game framing.
2. Multi-player environment, communication, and group competition.
3. Participatory learning environments.
4. Incentivized payments.
Accuracy, complexity, and flexibility of the game
Simple and abstract framing:
• easy to facilitate,
• supports general system understanding & activation of fairness norms.
Complex and adapted framing:
• more complex facilitation,
• supports system understanding and activation of fairness norms,
• stronger link between game experience and real life experience ➔
stronger effect on local governance?
Multi-player environment, communication, and
• Communication is key to social learning,
• Revealing decisions intensifies discussions,
• Letting two groups play simultaneously triggers discussion & intra-group
cooperation in reaction to inter-group competition,
• Rotate players increases reach of game within community,
• Players mimic a role (e.g. non-cooperator) to trigger discussion,
• Bringing conflicts on the table without having to point finger at anybody.
Participatory learning environments
• Move from frontal teaching to providing a space for participatory processes
• Community members find own solutions
➔ stronger acceptance of solutions
➔ solutions are adapted to specific context
➔ intrinsic motivations to effectively change behavior.
• Challenge to facilitators
➔ limit input
➔ ask theory-based open questions
➔ trust that things emerge.
• Guide practitioners in selecting the right tools for the right purpose
• Experiments for research have different requirements than the ones for
• Combining the conceptual thinking and applied experience of NGO, government,
and academic partners was essential in the development of all four described
• Co-design processes create a feeling of ownership, increase trust and stimulate
commitment among participants.
• Meinzen-Dick, R., M. Janssen, S. Kandikuppa, R. Chaturvedi,
K. Rao and S. Theis. 2018. Playing Games to Save Water:
Collective Action Games for Groundwater Management in
Andhra Pradesh, India. World Development 107(July):40-53.
• Falk, T., Kumar, S., Srigiri, S., 2019. Experimental games for
developing institutional capacity to manage common water
infrastructure in India, Agricultural Water Management.
• L Bartels, T Falk, B Vollan, V Duche, I Agrawal, S Kumar. 2019.
The Impact of Incentivized Payments on Game Behavior and
Social Learning in a Study on Water Management in Madhya
Pradesh/IndiaXVII Biennial IASC Conference access paper
• Falk, T., Zhang, W., Meinzen-Dick, R. S., & Bartels, L. (2021).
Games for triggering collective change in natural resource
management: A conceptual framework and insights from
four cases from India. IFPRI discussion papers, (1995). access
• Game manuals
• groundwater game
• surface water game
By Thomas Falk, Wei Zhang, Ruth Meinzen-Dick, and Lara Bartels