Department Environmental Social Sciences

Serious Games as an element of Multi-Criteria Decision Analysis

Structured methods are needed to support environmental policy decisions, including in the water sector. Multi-criteria decision analysis – or MCDA – is one of them, aiming at finding consensus between stakeholders with differing opinions. Traditionally, stakeholders are asked during interviews about their preferences concerning the outcomes of a set of decision options. Particularly, they have to give valuations by assigning weights to different objectives which are important in this decision. This is a tricky job as overall consequences of a weight are hard to understand, as people readily run into systematic biases during preference formulation processes, and as the interviewer might influence the interviewee when informing about such choices.

The project aims at introducing serious games, i.e. games including a non-entertaining purpose, for this phase when stakeholders state their preferences in the decision making process.

The study consists of two parts:

  • Can serious games as an element of the MCDA process facilitate the elicitation of preferences, and can visualization of results as part of the game be used as a consistency check?
  • Can serious games in MCDA enable involvement of a larger public, both numerically and in terms of diversity? Would that be beneficial for reaching a consensus decision?

A literature review on serious games used in environmental management will allow to identify game characteristics that would be needed to serve our purpose: the formulation of preferences and valuation processes in decision making and the involvement of a larger public.

Based on the review, a game – or set of games – will be tested in applied case studies, allowing evaluation of the game characteristics with regards to our aims. This will be done by comparing outcomes of different approaches (with games VS without games). The players behavior will also be a focus, aiming to observe if there is a preference typology. Pros and cons of implementing games in MCDA should be clearly stated to consider future adaptation of MCDA.


Dr. Alice AubertScientist, Cluster: Decision AnalysisTel. +41 58 765 5688Send Mail
Dr. Judit LienertGroup Leader, Cluster: DA (Decision Analysis)Tel. +41 58 765 5574Send Mail


Aubert, A. H.; Esculier, F.; Lienert, J. (2020) Recommendations for online elicitation of swing weights from citizens in environmental decision-making, Operations Research Perspectives, 7, 100156 (13 pp.), doi:10.1016/j.orp.2020.100156, Institutional Repository
Aubert, A. H.; Lienert, J. (2019) Gamified online survey to elicit citizens' preferences and enhance learning for environmental decisions, Environmental Modelling and Software, 111, 1-12, doi:10.1016/j.envsoft.2018.09.013, Institutional Repository
Aubert, A. H.; Bauer, R.; Lienert, J. (2018) A review of water-related serious games to specify use in environmental Multi-Criteria Decision Analysis, Environmental Modelling and Software, 105, 64-78, doi:10.1016/j.envsoft.2018.03.023, Institutional Repository


Dr. Alice AubertScientist, Cluster: Decision AnalysisTel. +41 58 765 5688Send Mail


Project start: October 2015

Project duration: 2 years

Project type: Eawag postdoc position