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Simulation Games for Preparedness, Readiness and Response

The CAPTRS Game Portfolio aims to set a new standard for preparedness through innovative simulation games that equip decision makers with the intuition, skills and systems needed to combat future pathogen threats and prevent cascading harms.

CAPTRS games are research-based and focus on cognitive processes as well as strategic, operational, and tactical challenges.

We are designing games for a wide range of players––from public health and healthcare professionals to scientists and engineers to elected, community and industry leaders––and to bolster preparedness across all stages in the decision cycle. We are continually developing new games, and welcome opportunities to work with new partners and clients to meet their needs.

Pathogen Situational Awareness Game

Developed in partnership with the Rockefeller Foundation, this analytical game improves the collection and interpretation of outbreak surveillance data. Players must navigate an evolving health crisis, evaluating new information shared as the game progresses.

Reliability Game

A knowledge-acquisition game in which players interpret data under multiple layers of uncertainty to provide analytic training and improve surveillance systems. The game experiments with the impact of source factors on situational assessment and captures belief changes and reasoning patterns of players.

Command, Control, Communication and Coordination (C3C) Game

Built with NSF support and in partnership with city leaders, this analytical game supports the design and testing of command, control, coordination, and communication functions for emerging threats. The game allows players to explore different aspects that lead to the selection of a given C3C structure, their relevant importance, and illuminates potential weaknesses in the structure. CAPTRS led City of Austin and Travis County public health and emergency response decision-makers through the C3C Game in 2023.

Activate Game

The Activate Game was designed specifically for scientists and public health experts participating in the CDC Insight Net (National Outbreak Analytics & Disease Modeling Network) conference. Players were put through the paces of responding to an emerging outbreak spurred by a Hantavirus superspreader event in the US. The exercise produced valuable data on how various experts assess risks and support Insight Net is developing effective emergency activation strategies.

Dengue Surveillance System (DSS) Game

Created for the Rockefeller Foundation’s India Project, this game supports critical thinking and improved decision-making during Dengue outbreaks.

Anti-Microbial Resistance (AMR) Game (under development)

This game seeks to break down current knowledge silos and establish an interdisciplinary approach to tackling AMR. By gathering diverse knowledge across disciplines and exploring the problem space, we aim to create a cohesive model that reveals how various factors interconnect. This game will be play-tested in the summer of 2024.

Blackout Emergency Game (under development)

This game is designed for emergency managers, federal and state officials, and first responder coordinators. In this game, players take on the role of emergency managers tasked with managing the cascading effects of a multi-day blackout in a city. As power, communications, and infrastructure systems gradually come back online, players must strategically allocate and deploy available emergency resources to respond to various emergencies. The gameplay challenges players to develop effective contingency plans and prioritize actions to mitigate the impact of the prolonged blackout, and the unpredictability of the cascading and interconnected effects.


Simulation games are exercises in which human participants play specific roles in a simulated environment which may serve as a use case or an abstraction of a real-world situation. Simulation games provide a safe-to-fail environment that fosters competition, collaboration and cooperation. Simulation gaming has a long tradition of providing training, informing playbooks and generating insights in the military (wargames) and business.

CAPTRS builds and deploys innovative simulation games to improve decision-making along the continuum of threat preparedness, readiness, response, and recovery. Our goal is to ensure resilience against future threats in a highly complex and changing globe. Our games support the development of cognitive and collaborative skillsets and the design of innovative technologies. 

Our rigorous approach to designing, developing and deploying simulation games draws on cognitive engineering, epidemiology, social science, AI and simulation. CAPTRS games are anchored in the concept that a threat response is not a monolithic challenge, but rather a dynamic cognitive process involving situational awareness, decision making, and action performance. Our games dissect this process, ensuring robust training for participants and coherent data for analysis.