Date of Award

Fall 12-2020

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




Technology and Media Studies Concentration

Committee Director

Daniel Richards

Committee Member

Kevin Moberly

Committee Member

Marc Ouellette

Committee Member

Ryan Moeller


Rising waters and the increasing devastation of flood events make coastal resilience a significant issue in the Hampton Roads region of Virginia, particularly in the city of Norfolk. Enhancing resilience requires ongoing stakeholder engagement designed to invite dialogue while encouraging cross-jurisdictional collaboration and comprehensive problem-solving. Climate change games have been employed to support these endeavors. This dissertation provides a response to the following research questions: 1) What is the origin of the climate change game genre? 2) Why are key stakeholders in coastal resilience using climate change games? And 3) how do these games operate for these key stakeholders? To answer these questions, I focused on two games used in resilience-related stakeholder engagement workshops in 2018 in Coastal Virginia: the Multi-hazard Tournament (MHT) and the Game of Floods. I conducted semistructured observational field notes and survey research, including interview and questionnaires, followed by thematic analysis according to notions of Susan Leigh Star and James Griesemer’s (1989) boundary objects.

Designed for a wide range of contexts, including public outreach, education, training, and stakeholder engagement, I found that the CC game genre emerges from (and is a manifestation of) a number of related traditions: technical communication, urban planning, modeling and simulation, and game studies—fields that are, themselves, intertwined with a broad array of disciplines. These games are complex and idiosyncratic; while no one disciplinary tradition can adequately explain their work, the notion of boundary objects can. These games are boundary objects (a manifestation of a range of disciplinary traditions), and they operate as boundary objects for these key stakeholders (encouraging dialogic communication among diverse audiences). I merge multidisciplinary scholarship with data from survey research to generate a rhetorical boundary work heuristic that articulates the goals of these games: foster boundary work for varied audiences within intense design periods using charrette and game design strategies. I analyze the MHT and the Game of Floods according to this heuristic, demonstrating that, while both games work toward these goals, more could be done to enhance their boundary work, and I close with key takeaways for practitioners to use as they continue developing and employing CC games.


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