New video game helps young adults prepare for earthquakes
PORTLAND, Ore.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–A new video game can help young adults prepare for an earthquake or other natural disaster. It’s just in time for International ShakeOut Day on October 20, when people around the world will train in earthquake safety.
The game is the result of a research project undertaken by a team of researchers from Lewis and Clark College, who feared the North West had a “culture of earthquake preparedness”. The team was curious if non-traditional media could be used to motivate better preparedness, especially among young adults, who are often left out of messaging campaigns, which typically target heads of households and children. The result is Cascadia 9.0, a just-released video game that lets young adults have fun while learning to prepare for an earthquake or other disaster.
Here’s how the game works: The player travels through a devastated city in search of his dog, Tsu (short for “tsunami”), who escaped after a violent earthquake. Along the way, they encounter situations that require their attention: unpurified drinking water, aftershocks, gas leaks, etc. By the time the player finds Tsu, he has encountered a wide variety of issues that occur before, during, and after a major earthquake.
Created by the Lewis & Clark Earthquake Preparedness Project, Cascadia 9.0 takes its name from the Cascadia Subduction Zone, a 600-mile fault off the Pacific coast that has the potential to produce an earthquake. earth of magnitude 9.0.
The Earthquake Preparedness Project is the brainchild of Liz Safran, associate professor of geological sciences and director of the Earth System Science and Environmental Studies programs at Lewis & Clark. Convinced that there was a better way to engage young adults in disaster preparedness, Safran began in 2016 to assemble an interdisciplinary research team, including computer scientist Peter Drake, psychology professor Erik Nilsen and media Bryan Sebok. The readiness project officially started in 2018 with a proof-of-concept pilot study. In 2019, the team received a four-year, $559,617 grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to support the project.
Students were heavily involved in the Readiness Project throughout the multi-year research process, helping with data analysis, contributing to programming, and developing survey materials. Students also participated in game testing and edutainment strategies.
“We were trying to get a basic understanding of what people can learn from games and what games can do to stimulate people’s intentions to prepare for earthquakes,” Safran said.
When analyzing the data, the team found that participants in the video game group spent more time on their task than people in the control group, who searched for information on the web. They uploaded more information right after and felt more confident to face some key challenges related to the earthquake, such as finding and purifying water and having good sanitation. “We found that the things they seemed to remember and think about the most were those that required ‘grip’, where they had to go through a series of actions or problem solving to be successful in the game,” said Nilsen, who served as the team’s lead in designing and running the experiments.
“I’m pretty happy with the first game,” said Safran. “It covers a lot of territory. We had to do it that way because it needed to be information-rich enough to compare to the web, which has all the information.”
In the future, the research team is planning additional experiments that will build on the data acquired so far. They will use future games (Cascadia 9.1, 9.2, etc.) to explore the importance of cooperation, environment, and social reinforcement on motivation to prepare.
Cascadia 9.0 is available on Cascadia9game.org.