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Introducing the Ocean Decade Game!

Have you heard of the United Nations Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development? Wondering what that means and how you can get involved? Take some time to learn about it now through the Ocean Decade Game! You have 10 rounds of cooperative gameplay to meet the game’s objectives: (1) identify the required knowledge, (2) generate comprehensive understanding, and (3) increase the use of ocean information. Through these objectives, you can create “The Science We Need for the Ocean We Want!”

Players will focus on overcoming the 10 DECADE CHALLENGES to obtain the 7 DECADE OUTCOMES. How you tackle challenges is up to you, and you can choose to perform 1 of 4 types of ACTIONS. There are no limits on how many ACTIONS you perform throughout the game, but be aware that you’ll need to resource your actions with monetary and staffing support throughout the game, so play strategically and always be mindful of the resources you have to allocate. 

You can submit ACTIONS twice per round to the DECADE COORDINATION UNIT, your in-game organizer and participant in charge of controlling the flow of the game and maintaining the detail of the adventure that we’re all here to play! You can submit Activities to the DECADE COORDINATION UNIT at any point during the game. They will let you know when your ACTION is ENDORSED, at which point it becomes an active component to overcoming the CHALLENGES

Play your DECADE CHALLENGE tokens throughout the game when putting together DECADE ACTIONS to indicate to other players which challenges you’re working on during the game. Iconography adapted from UNESCO/IOC.
Decade Challenges:

During the game, players will need to overcome the 10 DECADE CHALLENGES. These challenges are broad-reaching and have serious implications for our oceans. Players can focus on multiple DECADE CHALLENGES at once or tackle them individually. 

DECADE CHALLENGES include:

  • Understand and beat marine pollution
  • Protect and restore ecosystems and biodiversity
  • Sustainably feed the global population
  • Develop a sustainable and equitable ocean economy
  • Unlock ocean-based solutions to climate change
  • Increase community resilience to ocean hazards
  • Expand the Global Ocean Observing System
  • Create a digital representation of the ocean
  • Skills, knowledge, and technology for all
  • Change humanity’s relationship with the ocean
Decade Outcomes:

Ready to win the game? Make sure you’ve collected all 7 DECADE OUTCOMES while tackling the 10 DECADE CHALLENGES. At the end of the 10 rounds, players will showcase how they’ve created “The Science We Need for the Ocean We Want” by having an Ocean that demonstrates all 7 DECADE OUTCOMES.

DECADE OUTCOMES include:

  • A clean ocean
  • A healthy and resilient ocean
  • A productive ocean
  • A predicted ocean
  • A safe ocean
  • An accessible ocean
  • An inspiring and engaging ocean
Collect DECADE OUTCOME badges when you’ve achieved an outcome! All players will need to work together to collect all 7 for the players to win the game. Iconography adapted from UNESCO/IOC.
Choosing your Character:

Wondering what your character in this game should be? Good news, the sky’s the limit! You can play however you’d like. You can play as a nongovernmental organization, a nonprofit organization, an industry, an academic institution, an intergovernmental organization, or a national government organization. Want to play as an individual? There’s roles there, too! You can join the game as a Youth member of an Advisory Committee, an Early Career Ocean Professional, or simply by engaging with a National Decade Committee

There’s many ways to play and engage with the Ocean Decade game, but whichever route you choose, be aware of the resources that will then be available for you to support your ACTIONS and be on the lookout for partnerships with others throughout the game. 

A cartoon drawing of 7 playing cards laying in a pile. The top three are mostly visible and show, from left to right, a megaphone with a starfish on it over a blue background, a gray graduation cap over a yellow and blue background, and a golden gear over a pink background. These cards are labeled as “Nongovernmental Organization”, “Academia”, and “Industry” respectively. Under the title of each character card is a box that says “Special Role” with blurred out text below it. The drawing is over a blue circle with an overlay of water ripples. Artwork designed by Theresa Menna and digitized by Celina Harris.
A cartoon drawing of 7 playing cards laying in a pile. The top three are mostly visible and show, from left to right, a megaphone with a starfish on it over a blue background, a gray graduation cap over a yellow and blue background, and a golden gear over a pink background. These cards are labeled as “Nongovernmental Organization”, “Academia”, and “Industry” respectively. Under the title of each character card is a box that says “Special Role” with blurred out text below it. The drawing is over a blue circle with an overlay of water ripples. Artwork designed by Theresa Menna and digitized by Celina Harris.
Types of Actions: 

Programmes: Collaborate with fellow players to assemble programmes. This type of ACTION requires you to think big and work across the board. While this ACTION may take the most resources and require maintenance over many rounds of the game, it will also help facilitate the work done by other ACTIONS, allowing for faster progress toward defeating the DECADE CHALLENGES. Consider your character’s background and the work they have already done in the past to make the maximum impact in developing this type of ACTION. Chances are, many of the networks in your character’s background already have overlaps that could build into successful programmes!

Projects: Be focused when delving into this undertaking! This type of ACTION is typically more small-scale and directly related to the research aspect of the Ocean Decade. You can utilize programmes played by any player to help maximize the opportunity for the success of your project. But be careful not to be too narrow in scope! You need to maintain your focus on reaching the DECADE OUTCOMES.

Contributions: Don’t have the means to support a larger ACTION? Consider contributing through resource provisioning! Provide player or funding support to others to support the implementation of other ACTIONS or the functioning of the DECADE COORDINATION UNIT. This type of ACTION may seem small, but any amount of help counts! Ensuring other ACTIONS can overcome the DECADE CHALLENGES is just as important.

Activities: Does one-off and standalone sound like the kind of initiative for you? Then consider an Activity! This type of ACTION can be submitted at any point during the game and can take a variety of forms. Awareness-raising? Scientific workshop? Knowledge sharing? Thematic training opportunity? Yes, yes, yes, and yes! Take the chance to enable a programme or project to make some forward progress or directly contribute to a DECADE CHALLENGE on your own through an activity.

Players can also opt to modify the game by adding in the United States expansion pack, where they work to concurrently advance the U.S. National Decade Committee‘s goals and focus on helping progress towards the Cross-Cutting Themes for the US Contributions to the Ocean Decade. In this expansion pack, players can coordinate their efforts toward the game objectives by aligning work with one of the 6 CROSS-CUTTING THEMES outlined by the U.S. National Decade Committee. These themes are designed to overlap with existing DECADE CHALLENGES and DECADE OUTCOMES but allow players to engage more closely with other players whose characters are oriented around the United States.

THEMES include: 

  • An Inclusive and Equitable Ocean
  • An Ocean of Data
  • The Ocean Revealed
  • The Restored and Sustained Ocean
  • Ocean Solutions for Climate Resilience
  • Healthy Urban Seas

If you liked this game, feel free to check out the other 16 games in the SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT GOALS game series! The Ocean Decade Game is the 14th game in the SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT GOALS game series. It looks to promote the conservation and sustainable use of the oceans, seas, and marine resources for sustainable development.

About the Author

This blog post/parody game was developed by Celina Harris, 2023 Domestic Engagement to the Ocean Decade Knauss Fellow, hosted by NOAA’s Oceanic and Atmospheric Research Office and supported by MN Sea Grant. In her position, Celina assists with engagement by informing others about the Decade and coordinating collaborations with other partners with similar interests in the Ocean Decade. She recently was featured on the Ocean Decade show podcast with the first Ocean Decade fellow, where the evolution of the position was discussed! Beyond her work with the Ocean Decade, she also serves as an Executive Secretariat to the NOAA Science Council, where she’s learning more about how to support the advancing of science priorities across NOAA. Celina is an avid player of cooperative board and tabletop games and a subpar player of competitive video games. The Ocean Decade board game described in this blog post does not exist. It is meant to provide a brief yet fun, explanation to help readers better understand the UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development, commonly known as the Ocean Decade

Celina Harris

Celina Harris

Domestic Engagement to the Ocean Decade Knauss Fellow
NOAA Oceanic and Atmospheric Research Office

Learn more about Minnesota Sea Grant and how its work serves coastal communities in Minnesota and beyond.

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