Decision Theater

ASU’s Decision Theater worked with Tom Seager, an Associate Professor at Arizona State University in the school of Sustainable Engineering and The Built Environment, to host and collaborate on a student’s research project called the LA Water Games. The LA Water Game simulates the challenge of operating and maintaining the LA water distribution system, which has been challenged by frequent water main breaks and leaks during a major drought. While playing the game, players are asked to assume the role of a LA Water Manager. Players are tasked with financing provisions to maintain the quality of the water distribution pipe while balancing their public approval rating so as to avoid being fired. Participants discover an appreciation for the complex system of social-technical and economic interdependent feedback loops. Through game play, participants learn to recognize shortcomings of their intuitions for managing nonlinear systems which are subject to stochastic events.

To counter the US infrastructure crisis, the Decision Theater teamed up with ASU research scientists and co-created a novel approach to teach complex systems thinking skills for infrastructure management. By combining the technical and facilitative capabilities of the Decision Theater with the educational expertise of engineering researchers, the team designed The LA Water Game, a simulation game for teaching infrastructure complexity. The simulation game emerged out of months of interdisciplinary teamwork and cooperation between the Decision Theater and ASU researchers including: Lauren McBurnett, a civil engineering PhD student, and Dr. Thomas Seager, an Associate Professor in the School of Sustainable Engineering and The Built Environment, working closely with Greg Moon, a Lead Software Developer at the Decision Theater. The collaboration culminated with game play in January where guests from the Office of Naval Research, the Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command (SPAWAR), the Energy Systems Technology and Evaluation Program (ESTEP), and Naval Facilities visited the ASU Decision Theater and played The LA Water Game. We look forward to the future of this project, developing more simulation games, and exploring additional opportunities for collaboration.

Emily Herring
Decision Theater Hosts and Collaborates on LA Water Games