Disaster Detector

Virtual game to tackle natural disasters on city level through scientific data and citizen knowledge

Cities may suffer many types of natural disasters. Disaster Detector (Smithsonian Institution, 2015) lets players predict and track their severity. While playing, detectors learn how to analyse and interpret data on natural disasters provided by useful tools (a.o. anemometers, barometers or seismometers). Taking these data into account, players take action and decide where to invest to keep the city safe. Moreover, players have to pay attention to the knowledge of citizens before acting to prevent or mitigate natural disasters.

Images from the website of the game

When to play

Play Disaster Detector if you want to reflect on the multiple elements needed to prevent or mitigate natural disasters that may occur in cities. The game has two strengths. Firstly, it lets players explore how scientists analyse data to make predictions and mitigate natural disasters. Secondly, it makes players reflect on the need of working in the intersection of scientific knowledge, public investment decisions and citizen participation to take care of the cities. The game can be adapted to all ages but we suggest you to play it in a high school or university context.

Commons-related features

  • TrainingThe game helps to confer some skill to the players (for example, guide them to build urban gardens).
  • Reflect on resources managementThe game lets you experience the challenges of managing a resource.

Best contexts to play

  • Knowledge institution workshop or classThe game can be played in a university class or during a summer course to delve into different aspects of the commons. 
  • Informed social debateThe game can be used to inform non-expert people about the commons and spark off a constructive debate on the topic.


  • InformativeThe game conveys concrete knowledge about or insight into a real-world situation.
  • ChallengingThe game demands a considerable effort (e.g. to act under time pressure) to succeed.
  • ExplorativeThe game lets you experience alternative worlds.

How to obtain

You can download it and play it for free. 

Check the website of the game