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SU: A Serious Game for Water Management - Based on Istanbul



With the increasing population growth of human beings, the world is being threatened by the water scarcity problem, causing insecurity in water accessibility. Therefore, a deliberated water management gains fatal importance. In addition, the awareness of the issue through education, specifically in the early ages, plays a crucial role in this path. This research considers the water issue of Istanbul in its content. However, regarding the target audience, which is the kids, it uses a novel approach to tackle the problem. The paper proposes a visually enriched and nonlinear, serious game for the children to teach them about the importance of water and its impact on the planet, specific to Istanbul. The game is inspired by National Geographic Turkey's documentary named 25 Liters: In Pursuit of Water, asking the players to survive in a drought situation in the future. It aims to change the kid's lifestyle to revive the country's in-danger future.
XXV International Conference of the Ibero-American Society of Digital Graphics Nov 8th -12th, 2021
XXV Conferência Internacional da Sociedade Ibero-Americana de Gráfica Digital Nov 8 a 12, 2021
XXV Conferencia Internacional de la Sociedad Iberoamericana de Gráfica Digital Nov 8 a 12, 2021
conferência ubíqua
ubiquitous conference
conferencia ubicua
Design Cognition
Design Reasoning
Design Theory
Hybrid Education
Online Learning
Cognição em Projeto
Raciocínio em Projeto
Teoria do Design
Educação híbrida
Aprendizagem a distância
Cognición de Diseño
Razonamiento de Diseño
Teoría de Diseño
Educación Híbrida
Aprendizaje en Línea
Ubiquitous Learning
Aprendizagem Ubíqua
Aprendizaje Ubicuo
SU: A Serious Game for Water Management - Based
on Istanbul
Sepehr Vaez Afshar1, Gülşen Aytaç1, Sarvin Eshaghi1
1 Istanbul Technical University, Turkey
Abstract. With the increasing population growth of human beings, the world is being
threatened by the water scarcity problem, causing insecurity in water accessibility.
Therefore, a deliberated water management gains fatal importance. In addition, the
awareness of the issue through education, specifically in the early ages, plays a crucial
role in this path. This research considers the water issue of Istanbul in its content.
However, regarding the target audience, which is the kids, it uses a novel approach to
tackle the problem. The paper proposes a visually enriched and nonlinear, serious game
for the children to teach them about the importance of water and its impact on the planet,
specific to Istanbul. The game is inspired by National Geographic Turkey's documentary
named 25 Liters: In Pursuit of Water, asking the players to survive in a drought situation
in the future. It aims to change the kid's lifestyle to revive the country's in-danger future.
Keywords: Serious games, Water management, Virtual water, Drought, Decision
1 Introduction
Lack of clean freshwater is vital for the world and its inhabitants due to its impact
on their health, economy, and social well-being. However, the available water
resources are under pressure due to excessive demand created by urban
population growth, representing a severe threat (Rijsberman, 2006; van
Leeuwen & Sjerps, 2016). This threat causes water scarcity, in which a society
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becomes water insecure and cannot fulfill its essential needs over long periods
(Savun-Hekimoğlu, Erbay, Hekimoğlu, & Burak, 2021; Rijsberman, 2006).
Furthermore, being an arid region, scarcity intensifies the problem, putting food
resources, health, and the natural ecosystem in danger (Seckler, Barker, &
Amarasinghe, 1999). Hence, to tackle the issue, water management is a key
need for all aspects of society to secure the next generations' economic growth
and life quality (Savun-Hekimoğlu et al., 2021). However, it is important to
remember that water consumption of a region includes virtual water, meaning
the amount of water used for any production, in addition to the direct use of
freshwater. The production of various types of products consumes different
amounts of water. In this regard, Zimmer and Renault (2003) propose
categories, including primary products, processed products, transformed
products, by-products, multiple products, and low or non-water consumptive
products. According to Hoekstra and Mekonnen (2012), grain production needs
less water than livestock products. Additionally, while cheese production
consumes much virtual water, beef is the product with the greatest water usage
amongst edibles. The production of electronic components, however, requires
even more water. The production trade between various countries leads to a
virtual water flow, an alternative to importing water for arid regions to deal with
scarcity (Chapagain & Hoekstra, 2004; Hoekstra & Mekonnen, 2012; Seckler
et al., 1999). This study's objective is the water management of Istanbul, a fast-
growing metropolitan city. This city faced water scarcity throughout its history
due to its distance from water resources (Savun-Hekimoğlu et al., 2021; van
Leeuwen & Sjerps, 2016). Additionally, it faced a very recent drought in 2020
when the freshwater resources in the city reservoirs fell to 20% (Yılmaz et al.,
As Appel et al. (2019) assert concerning sustainable ecosystems, citizens'
awareness is crucial; hence informing them of the related challenges,
specifically from the early ages, is vital. Additionally, according to UNESCO
(1980), contemporary literature on environmental education should endorse a
promising approach, paving public awareness about the subject. In this regard,
educational or 'edutainment' software, a term combining education and
entertainment in the form of video games for learning, is key to serving
academic ingredients by embedding entertainment and bonuses for the user
via a digital medium. These educational games are also known as serious
games and have attracted players since 2002 (Alvarez & Djaouti 2011;
Mouaheb et al., 2012). Such a point of view towards an issue such as water
scarcity, a long-term challenge for the planet which will increase in severity,
brings a creative and innovative technological approach to the possible futures.
Therefore, this paper proposes a serious game to increase awareness of
the next generations' water shortage issue based on the city of Istanbul. While
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existing developed educational games in the literature focus on water
management, this game is based explicitly on Istanbul, focusing on the water
level of Istanbul's reservoirs. The game has a nonlinear decision-making
theme, depicting the city's future in a drought situation, asking the player to live
through water shortages and see the effects on the environment and
landscape. A documentary by National Geographic Turkey named 25 Liters: In
Pursuit of Water (Dilara, 2019) was the inspiration behind the game's story. The
game aims to teach children about the actual and virtual value of water, its
efficient use, and the effects of its use on the environment.
2 Literature Review
A considerable number of studies in the serious game's literature focus on
water and its management. However, each has a different point of view towards
the issue for a wide range of target audiences.
SmartH2O is a project using consumers' water usage data for use in serious
games to get feedback and raise people's awareness and highlight the dangers
of wasting water (Rizzoli et al., 2014). Similarly, Khoury et al. (2014) proposed
a serious game about flood prevention occurring as the result of climate change
in the UK's Millbrook village for public awareness and identifying novel
approaches to the issue. The game, developed in the Unity engine, gives
players questionnaires before and after playing it. Flipping Lakes is a game-
based method, educating various types of audiences about water quality and
pollution management. It aims at engaging and educating both the stakeholders
and the community in global water issues (Armstrong et al., 2021).
Multiple studies considered developing a serious game framework regarding
sustainability and water. Makahiki is a serious game framework provided with
built-in games for organizations regarding the sustainability of various natural
resources, including water (Xu et al., 2017). Another serious game framework
proposed by Rottondi and Verticale (2016) focuses on the privacy aspect of
energy and water usage reduction. Another framework, introduced by Teague
et al. (2021), considers water-related planning and threat reduction during
stakeholders' participation in a decision-making process. In another attempt,
Ong and Araral (2021) developed a mobile serious game based on message
framings to inform the players of their water usage level regarding the risk of
AQUAGUARDIANS (AG) is a serious educational game for water
management tested in two cities with drought problems, resulting in successful
outcomes. The game involves the community in the issue in a virtual cultural
environment, involving reading texts and written input. As another example for
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water management, Van der Wal et al. (2016) used a serious game providing
feedback on the consequences of users' choices. Morley et al. (2017) present
a competitive online serious game for water distribution performance
While all these investigated studies are specific for adults, the only game
aimed at children is described in Appel et al. (2019). This sample focused on
the need to create a knowledgeable society for a healthy and sustainable
ecosystem. Hence, the players are informed about the difficulties of maintaining
surface waters. They proposed the Hydro Hero serious game with minigames
exclusively for children, underlining the importance of education at an early age.
The game is based on canal maintenance, including questionnaires tested at a
science museum. Based on the discussed studies, we see a lack of serious
games for raising children's awareness of water's importance and its effects on
the environment. Hence, in this study, we developed a serious game in this
regard based on Istanbul and its reservoirs.
3 Game Design
As a children's game, the story is essential to the Su game development to
engage the players with the intended information. The game is inspired by 25
Liters: In Pursuit of Water, a documentary by National Geographic Turkey,
which depicts Turkey in 2050, suffering severe water scarcity. In the video, the
people of Istanbul are trying to survive on only 25 Liters of water daily. The
documentary demonstrates the current condition of Istanbul's landscape due to
environmental issues and the current water use level. It also explains the
concept of virtual water in detail, demonstrating the effect of lifestyle and eating
habits on the country's water usage.
The story of the Su game is set in Istanbul 2050 when a drought is drying
up the dam's water and destroying the green spaces. Additionally, the citizens
suffer from a severe lack of fresh water. The game's main character is a child
going to the water museum with school-mates and the teacher. This character
and the theme of the story are designed to keep the children immersed in the
game. The player navigates the game's character along various corridors in the
museum and learns information about water and Istanbul. After finishing the
tour in the museum, the students go back to the school. The teacher asks
questions about what they learned and how they can survive in the current
drought condition of Istanbul. In this part, the player will be asked questions to
get the final reward. The player has a reservoir with a specific amount of water
at the beginning. With each wrong answer, the amount of water is reduced, and
the landscape around it is destroyed, while correct answers have the opposite
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effect. Hence, in this way, the player will try to remember the knowledge learned
in the first part of the game, give the correct answers, and keep the water level
high. The results will be shown visually to demonstrate the effect of water
scarcity on the landscape by showing dry and green environments (Figure 1).
Additionally, the players will not be shown the numbers but rather see the effect
visually so that they will be able to visualize the conditions as much as possible.
In the end, based on the reserved amount of water in the dam, the player will
get rewards.
Figure 1. Effect of wrong answers on the environment in the game
We aimed to transmit a wide range of elementary-level data to the players.
During the game, the player, first of all, will learn the importance of water as a
necessity for human beings, animals, and plants. Next, the player learns about
the impact of the water on the planet, the water cycle as a continuous process,
and the consequences of any interruption of this on the world's well-being.
Afterward, there is an explanation of how freshwater reaches the consumers
for everyday use and how it can be polluted. In the next stage, they will
encounter the meaning of the virtual water. This part explains the amount of
water used to produce the edibles players consume, the clothes they wear, and
the devices and the vehicles they use. This information is designed to guide
them to change their lifestyle from a very early age, for both a healthy body and
a green planet. Finally, as a part of the story, players will be informed that, in
the 2050 drought, Istanbul's reservoirs are just 10% full.
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4 Game Development Platform
For the development of the SU game, we tried Twine (2021), Scratch (2021),
and (, 2021) platforms to find the one most suited to
the game's content and its target audience. Considering that the target players
are children and considering the need for a more visual outcome, we chose the platform. This platform allows developing interactive, nonlinear
branching video stories, which engage the audience, encouraging them to
watch and replay it. Like the Twine platform, it will enable the viewer to
personalize their journey, however, in a more visually appealing format. In, the videos can be easily uploaded and connected without any
need for coding knowledge (Figure 2). Additionally, it is easy to define buttons
and periods for each video to let players select their paths (Figure 3). The
platform is newly established and in the process of development, but its results
can be published on the web page, or the developers can get
embedded links to share on their web pages. In addition, it enables sharing in
PowerPoint presentations, and there are plans to publish on various other
platforms in the future. Hence, at this point, we need to create educational and
entertaining videos for use in a video game via the platform.
Figure 2. The development process of the game in the platform. Source:
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Figure 3. Game's interactive selection sample
5 Animation Making Platform
For the video creation part, we needed a platform to create entertaining videos
to which speech sound could be added. For this purpose, we used Animaker
software which allows non-professionals to create animations (Animaker,
2021). The software has a range of ready-to-use characters, elements,
backgrounds, and music for animations, and the speech can be added to
animations by simply typing the conversation and selecting the desired voice
tone. Finally, the video can be published and downloaded (Figure 4). Hence,
after creating each scene, all the videos can be uploaded to the
platform with their proper texts and choices so that the users can make their
selections and also answer the relevant questions in the second part of the
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Figure 4. Animaker animation design interface. Source:
6 Conclusion
To conclude, this paper aims to raise water awareness by focusing on
educating children. It considers Istanbul's water scarcity problem by informing
the children about the direct and virtual use of water, in addition to the effect of
its excessive use on the planet and the environment. To achieve this, it takes
advantage of serious educational games to provide entertaining instruction.
Depicting a future drought situation in Istanbul, the game challenges the players
to survive by controlling the water level of a reservoir by answering questions
on information learned in the first phase of the game. Wrong answers result in
a decreasing water level, demonstrating the effect of water on the landscape.
The game's animation is created in the Animaker, an easy-to-use animation-
making platform. The game is developed with the platform,
designed for the development of interactive movies and games. The visually
appealing design is expected to encourage children's immersion in the game
and learning about these issues. The game is still in its alpha version, not fully
developed yet, and hence, has limitations. The limited time and budget and the
small group of developers in this project demonstrate the possibility of
developing games for various purposes using simple development means,
without the need for large teams or complicated coding. Additionally, users can
play the published version of the game in any browser of any device, eliminating
the need for a professional gaming system and making it available to the mass
public. As future work, the fully developed game can be incorporated into the
curriculum in an elementary school to involve the students in environmental
issues from early ages, leading to a more environmentally conscious
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ResearchGate has not been able to resolve any citations for this publication.
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Hydrological hazards lead to a broad range of socio-economic and environmental risks. The development of a resilient community and risk reduction rely on the adoption of holistic watershed master planning whereby the adaptation options consider the risk associated with individual or multiple hydrological hazards occurring simultaneously at a specific location. Such planning approaches pose multiple challenges for decision-makers including the access and manipulation of high-volume high-variety data. Moreover, modern planning approaches involve the watershed community in decision-making, hence, these approaches have to include elements of social learning and relationship building. This study introduces a serious gaming framework to assist stakeholders in the decision-making process for water resources planning and hazard mitigation. A Multi-Hazard Tournament (MHT) is described that allows the members of a watershed community to evaluate various adaptation options to develop mitigation strategies for multiple water-related hazards (e.g. flood, drought, and water pollution). The tournament offers a competitive and gamified setting for collaborative hazard risk assessment to minimize damages to water quality, riparian habitat, water resources availability, vulnerable populations, and infrastructure. A web-based decision support tool is developed to provide interactive interfaces and engaging visualizations and serve as a one-stop platform to investigate the challenges presented for each damage center within its geographic context and to analyze the cost/benefit relationship for potential hazard mitigation strategies with dynamic analytics tools. Finally, a case study is presented to evaluate the effectiveness of MHT in increasing collective awareness and conceptual and practical understanding of water-related hazards and mitigation strategies.
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