Taking Serious Games to the masses: Using game interfaces to widen the appeal of ABMs

BMU landing site

Asking questions can be problematic, particularly when there are disparities of outlook, education and nationality. Asking hypothetical questions and considering future scenarios is particularly difficult when working with, for example, rural African farmers (however we suggest such questions are problematic everywhere).

Participatory computer modelling is a technique that has been used to help researchers and communities understand issue and envisage future solutions in these contexts. We worked on two projects where we built agent-based models (using NetLogo) with subsistence farmers in Cameroon and artisanal fishers in Kenya. In both instance we also worked alongside local researchers and policy-makers to discuss climate adaptation strategies with respect to crop selection and fishing gear choice.

Watching and recording everything

David observing farmers in Somie using the model

We gained a better understanding of how computer models can be built that enable local participants to consider the status quo, gain insights into how to recover from crises, and envisage the future. In particular we focussed on the design and use of game-like elements that enable participants to express a deep understanding of their world through the way they interact with the model.

Using field experience of running ABMs in Africa we will discuss ways in which mobile based “games” can be used to collect data and to widen debates about environmental interventions, planning and implementation.

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Behaviour Composer updated for NetLogo 5.3

The Behaviour Composer and the Behaviour Composer to NetLogo tool have been updated for NetLogo 5.3. This fixes the problem with repeated spurious warning dialogues when running the 3D version from the BC2NetLogo tool.

This release relies upon Java version 8. A link to the older release for those who can’t update Java can be found in Behaviour Composer to NetLogo tool web page.

The older version of the BC2NetLogo tool will continue to work but it will trigger a version incompatibility warning from NetLogo that is annoying but harmless. You can stop these warnings by changing the server to http://778.m4a-gae-hrd.appspot.com/ in the advanced settings dialogue.


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New release of the Behaviour Composer

Fixed a bug with the option to keep the plots of previous runs where setup didn’t fully reset the model . A few minor improvements added as well. This caused the Spanish Flu model to break when rerun with different settings.

See https://github.com/ToonTalk/behaviour-composer/commits/master for details.

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ABM get-together Oct 2015

NetLogo web

Screenshot of the NetLogo Web tool (click image to go to NetLogo web)

Several people stayed more than an hour after the presentations enjoying cake and conversations about ABM.

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New release of Behaviour Composer for NetLogo 5.2.1

The Behaviour Composer and the Behaviour Composer to NetLogo tool have been updated to use the latest version of NetLogo (5.2.1). A few minor improvements were made as well.

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Next agent-based modelling get-together

Interest in Oxford in agent-based modelling continues to grow, so we thought it is time to have another informal gathering to:
·  see who’s working on what sorts of problems
·  find out what software and packages are being used
·  see who has what expertise
·  create some new collaborations
·  assist those who are new to the technique
·  reinvigorate the network of existing informal contacts
Everyone is welcome whether you’re an undergraduate, postgraduate, research fellow, or academic staff. It doesn’t matter which department you are in, what topics you’re interested in, or what level of knowledge or experience you have.
We are offering 5-minute presentation slots to anyone who wants to discuss thoughts on ABM – particularly problems that might be well-suited for ABM or work-in-progress. This time we will be strict about the 5 minute limit but are encouraging people who may just want to ask questions to sign up for a slot. Please send email to kenneth.kahn@it.ox.ac.uk
Date:            Thursday 22 October
Time:            2:00pm – 4:00pm (though in previous meetings some stayed past 5pm)
Venue:         Future of Humanity Institute, Suite 1, Littlegate House (1st floor, on the left)
                      16/17 St Ebbe’s Street, Oxford, OX1 1PT
Cake and refreshments will be provided.
Let your colleagues know about this.
If you’re unable to come along but would like to keep in touch, please send an email to kenneth.kahn@it.ox.ac.uk
We hope to see you on the twenty-second of October.
Ken Kahn and Howard Noble (Research Support, IT Services)
Andrew Snyder-Beattie and Anders Sandberg (The Future of Humanity Institute)
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Behaviour Composer integrated with the new NetLogo Web

A screen shot NetLogo Web running inside of the Behaviour Composer

A screen shot NetLogo Web running inside of the Behaviour Composer

NetLogo Web was released today. This release of the Behaviour Composer uses NetLogo Web when in the ‘run’ tab or if the option ‘Generate code compatible with the Web version of NetLogo’ is checked. Otherwise the full-featured desktop version of NetLogo is used. All recent changes are documented here.

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Emergency fix for Behaviour Composer to NetLogo tool

The Google App Engine channel format that is used to send models to NetLogo changed today. All users of the Behaviour Composer to NetLogo tool need to download a new version.

Sorry for the inconvenience.

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Epidemic Game Maker now works in all browsers with no installation

The new Web version of NetLogo is now complete enough to run all the games that can be created by the Epidemic Game Maker. No plug-ins, no Java applets, just plain JavaScript. Works on tablets and phones too.

The Epidemic Game Maker running in a browser

The Epidemic Game Maker running in a browser

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ABM get-together May 2015

The May 2015 ABM get-together brought together over twenty Oxford researchers (as well as visitors from Bath and Rutherford Lab) from diverse fields.

Some of the discussion was about how to run large models and experiments using high-performance computers such as those at Oxford’s ARC facility.

Jan Dubbelboer is using NetLogo to create an ABM about flood damage, risk and property buying decisions in London neighbourhoods like Camden. Main challenge is getting the model to run and is about to try running model using HPC here at Oxford (we mentioned Ken’s ARC HPC getting started guide). We also discussed whether FLAME or RePast would be better tools for running models like this with large numbers of agents each of which is running fairly intensive code.

Oliver Lewis from improbable.io gave us an overview of a system that is about to be launched for running very large-scale agent simulations that can be experienced immersively by multiple participants.

Pablo Estevez in Economic Geography is designing a model to study the effect that large oil producers have on the overall economy. In particular whether countries that have large oil production might struggle to diversify their economy i.e. create jobs with a wide range of skills / productive knowledge.

Anders Sandberg of the Future of Humanity Institute gave an update on work he is doing with Feng Zhou on modelling bounded rationality in insurance companies to understand the systemic risk in this industry. This is a “meta-model” since it models the use of models (by insurance companies). Scott Page and the diversity prediction theorem was discussed i.e. whether ideas relating to the wisdom of the crowd and considering a large number of models is relevant.

Matteo Richiardi at the Institute for New Economic Thinking gave us a quick update on recent performance testing he is doing on the new Jas-mine ABM platform.

Justin Lane of Anthropology gave us a last update on his religiosity model before he heads off to Boston to join a very exciting and large international project where he’ll be able to explore these ideas further. Justin is also working out how to move his model to HPC in order to explore the large dimensional space (the model got complicated). Justin is looking at schisms and whether ‘identity’ plays a major role. Adrienne mentioned Michelle Barnes’s work on ethnicity in common-pool resource institutions.

Joanna Bryson from Bath University also managed to make the meeting and gave us an overview of some current exciting research going on within her group. This included work on evolutionary dynamics. She recommended these group and event web sites: http://anagramm.phil.hhu.de/ and http://www.gesis.org/en/events/css-wintersymposium/.

Ken Kahn of IT Services presented slides about NetLogo developments, AgentBase, ABM books, ABM MOOCs, and Rob Axtell’s ABM bibliometrics.

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