Every year, people die in completely predictable floods. Severe rain overflows the banks of the Zambezi river and water flows downstream hitting each population in order, from the source of the flood to the sea where the river empties. UpRiver was designed in partnership with the Red Cross Red Crescent Climate Centre and the Zambian Red Cross who work directly with people affected by floods to communicate these important ideas and save lives.
Players simulate water levels along the river with cups filled with different amounts of water. Water is added or subtracted from the cups with sponges, and players are asked to predict the final level. Players earn game currency by reporting the water level, weather, and other real-time information about their local area. They can earn more by placing bets about future conditions. The farther out their predictions, and more accurate their guesses, the larger the reward. To help make more accurate guesses, players may also purchase information about what players upstream from them are reporting, or buy access to a computer model. In the end, the player who is best able to leverage this information into accurate predictions will be deemed the winner.
According to Pablo Suarez of the Red Cross Red Crescent Climate Centre, "In the communities where we have had the fortune of going more than once, the game experience is remembered fondly and is frequently viewed as an eye-opener and the moment that created the appetite for people to want to learn more. One can see in the eyes of the participants the positive influence of the game experience which is fundamentally about experiential learning."