DOWNPOUR  is an interactive street game in which members of the public play the role of Manchester’s flood advisers trying to save the city from an impending flood.

Downpour, takes place in Potato Wharf as part of the ESRC Festival of Social Science. Downpour combines aspects of treasure hunts, escape room and interactive experience to provide a hugely entertaining activity which educates its players about flooding and climate change.

Credit Matt Bullin

In the game members of the public are split into teams and have to act out a range of characters to first stop the impending flooding of Manchester whilst thinking about long term plans to prevent future flooding and combat climate change.

Science and technology lover, Reina Yaidoo, from North Manchester, played the game and said: “It was really exciting! The area itself and the way it was organised. As well as the fact it was outdoor, indoor.”

Dr Jana Wendler, 31, Downpour’s game designer said: “There’s been so many attempts to get the general population to think about climate change.

Planning downpour

But I don’t think a lot of it quite connects because you don’t necessarily have the experience of what the problems are like. So by putting people in a playful scenario, where they can experiment in a safe space, it gives them a completely different insight into these issues, which will hopefully trigger further interest.”

Dr Wendler also made it clear that she tried to impart ‘real science’ and social and political issues into the game whilst still making it fun to play.

Last year Dr Wendler was involved in the ESRC festival again this time on the sustainability of research. But she also has previous experience with street games, having designed a game called ‘Outbreak’, using a similar model to Downpour, in which players had to save their city from a virus outbreak.

Speaking of the ESRC festival Dr Wendler said: “Games and play is often focused on young people’s learning but it doesn’t have to be restricted to them.

It’s important to have more traditional, more serious events, but for some people it doesn’t quite connect. So, I think a real range [of events] is important. “I feel like [Downpour] the game can contribute something quite unique to the festival this year.”

Being a game about flooding and torrential rain it was fitting that it took place in Manchester, but Dr Wendler pointed out Manchester’s bad weather is more than just a stereotype.

We looked at the Boxing Day floods last Christmas- that was our baseline scenario. We started from there and then we basically said well what if that [the floods] happens plus more, what if it [the rain] doesn’t stop after three days.

Credit ESRC
Credit ESRC

“Those are not scenarios that are completely unthinkable- climate change predictions show rainfall will increase, especially in winter months, so this is something Manchester needs to face up to.”

The interactive game runs until November 12 as part of a country-wide celebration of social science research.

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