The notion of crisis takes more importance every day, in particular in developed societies. Four reasons in particular may explain such increase. They are connected with the acceleration of scientific and technological progresses – mainly information technologies – and with their ever wider dissemination:
- Shortening of time
- Shortening of space
- Systems’ complexification
- Strengthening of developed societies’ expectations in terms of security and well-being.
With respect to the first point, the functioning speed of many automated systems implies in case of a problem occurrence, a reaction speed that is beyond reach for human beings. A known example is the one of a plane that, in order to keep being furtive, has an unstable structure that requires dozens of interventions per second to avoid a crash.
The second point corresponds to a dimension which is orthogonal with respect to the first one, but with comparable consequences. The constant strengthening of connectivity within a society or between different societies increases the stakes of a crisis at two levels: the resonance of a local crisis at a global scale, and the dissemination of that local crisis at a more global level.
The third point induces the assumption of a higher vulnerability of some of these systems, stemming precisely from their complexity. One should nevertheless notice that for a quite significant proportion of these systems, the increase in complexity has been accompanied if not generated by security measures and processes.
Last, with respect to the fourth point, the progress of developed societies at the economic, social, medical levels, as well as the strong expectation vis-à-vis a providence state have resulted in a lesser degree of tolerance with respect to unexpected events which can generate crises: fatality is a cause which is no more socially acceptable.
It results from the above considerations that mastering and managing crises in an appropriate way is becoming and will become ever more a challenge at the various levels of societies: individual, corporate, local, national and international public authorities.
In this respect serious games will undoubtedly play a major role in the training of crisis management. Among others, three major and highly connected parameters need to be represented in a serious game dealing with crisis management:
- the acquisition of skills and competencies enabling the trainee to develop a sound reasoning leading to rational and efficient decisions
- the possible inadequacy of available information, either because there is a lack of information or because on the opposite available information is to dense and not consistent
- the mastering of stress. It is no more than common sense to consider that the higher the stakes, and the inadequacy of information, the smaller the time available for intervening, the higher the stress
Therefore the first objective of serious games focusing on crisis management should be to enable the trainees to take rational decisions in a context of imperfect information and time limitation. Another albeit connected objective should be to enable the trainee to get aware of the complexity of taking such decisions in a context in which the interest of the intervening parties might not necessarily coincide. This would be typically the case for instance in a context of multi-agency crisis management, in which each agency has its own interests.
To be able to reach these goals a serious game focusing on crisis management should include:
- a “backbone story telling” from which several scenarios could be developed depending on the responses of the trainees and the proposals of the trainer
- a highly realistic environment susceptible to generate stress
- the possibility for the trainees, under their own initiative or under the initiative of the trainer to go backward in the scenario development, and thus to test other responses than the ones that they have previously considered.
The above elements are quite general, and thus may apply to a variety of crisis types: an economic crisis is quite different from a crisis resulting from a bushfire or a terrorist action. Now it is quite obvious that due to their difference in terms of nature, stakes, and time available, all crises could not be addressed the same way. So in parallel with the development of specific cases, GaLA should also address the issue of crises categorization beyond the existing taxonomy, and more precisely define the relevant features that enable to break down the domain into relevant segments. One way to explore such segmentation could be to develop a crisis ontology.
A first and elementary example of such development could be the taking into account of the nature of the crisis ( for instance economic, military), the level concerned (for instance local vs global), available time, and stakes on the other.