The idea of gaming may make you think of young people spending all day playing on their tablets. However, TU Delft researchers are also involved in gaming, but in this case for science purposes. The TU Delft GameLab works with business and industry on the development of both analogue and digital serious games in order to make complex issues manageable and find solutions for processes in which numerous players with different interests collaborate. One example is the TransSonic project, in which opportunities and obstacles are identified for innovations in the transport sector.
“When developing innovations, it's important not only to consider the technological possibilities, but also to take account of the social aspects”, says Heide Lukosch, one of the TransSonic project leaders who works at TPM. There are occasions when innovations cannot be implemented because in practice it turns out that entire organisational processes need to be changed. “This fairly often results in resistance to the ideas and innovations ending up being shelved. That is why it's advisable to opt for a multidisciplinary research strategy that also considers the social component. This is exactly what we are doing in the TransSonic project”, says Lukosch.
The world of transport and logistics is still somewhat conservative in its approach. Only in recent years have the ports of Rotterdam really invested in technological innovations, while other international ports have been doing so for years already. In the ports of Rotterdam, deals are still made in a traditional manner. Numerous players are involved in transporting goods inland and the trusted network is extremely important. But serious innovation is needed in this process in order to keep pace with competitors. Lukosch: “We now intend to research how transportation can be more effective and efficient, through the use of smart contracts and the deployment of blockchain technology. To achieve this, we first need to conduct a network analysis and find out why technological innovations are not being embraced. All of this information will then be processed in a serious game”.
Designing a board game based on the scientific insights enables stakeholders in the sector to experience for themselves what a difference blockchain technology can make to the way in which contracts are closed. “It's great to be able to experiment in a safe environment and it provokes discussion. A board game can increase awareness and trust among players, making them more likely to accept the implementation of new technologies,” explains Lukosch.
Gamelab is the future
In the Netherlands, several groups are working on serious gaming research, including at Utrecht University and NHTV Breda University of Applied Sciences. The TU Delft GameLab is unique in the sense that the games must be in the service of science. Business and industry, as well as civil-society organisations, are increasingly turning to the Gamelab to use games in assessing complicated problems. These include the transport sector, such as Prorail with its complex railway network, as well as humanitarian organisations wishing to guarantee the safety of their workers in conflict zones. Lukosch: “Serious games are playing an increasingly important role in solving complex problems. We are responding to this by developing a global mainframe with all of the knowledge and experience we are acquiring, so that we have an excellent basis for future challenges”.