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Design a disaster preparedness adventure game that can be used across the country to increase community resilience.
Midwest tornados, Sierra wildfires, Southwest flash floods, Gulf hurricanes, Pacific earthquakes – if scientists are calling these severe weather patterns the “new normal” then we have to come up with better solutions to address them.
My project strives to tackle the challenge of preparing communities through play.
A few years ago, I produced a Zombie Apocalypse Disaster Preparedness game in San Francisco. We armed players with nerf guns and challenged them to run around the city completing missions they received on their smartphones. Some of the missions were ridiculous (zombie brain bashing target practice with... piñatas), but most were designed to foster basic disaster skills (learn how to bandage a burn wound, learn how to pack a survival kit, memorize emergency radio stations & plan evacuation routes). Meanwhile we hired actors dressed as zombies to chase them, and the game culminated in a Thriller dancemob at a local park.
In the past 3 years, I have produced over 300 games around the world with The Go Game. Ninjas battles, logic puzzles, and whipped cream relays? Check check check. I know how to design games for leadership development, teambuilding, skill training, marketing and just pure ridiculous fun. But my passion? Empowering communities through play. Over the next few years, I want to develop a new platform: Disaster Preparedness Gaming.
The MTP would be the perfect opportunity for me to gather data across the country. How are different regions preparing for natural disasters? What are local governments, schools and companies doing to empower their communities in a time of crisis? And specifically, what do millennials WANT to learn to feel prepared? With this data, I intend to produce a disaster preparedness game at the end of the MTP journey... in Miami! This would be a culmination of everything I've learned along the way.
Hurricanes, tsunamis, earthquakes, tornados, wildfires, floods, heatwaves and superstorms - research suggests that these extreme weather patterns will happen with greater frequency and impact. I believe we can address these challenges through gaming.
Why games? Because games connect people, games foster engagement and interaction. And studies have shown that building a strong social connection within your community can save lives.
Organizations like the CDC and FEMA have already tested the waters of innovative training strategies with online quizzes & graphic novels. But the problem is, these initiatives don't create muscle memory, they don't excite the imagination, and they don't bind people together.
But real-world adventure gaming gives individuals the chance to meet new people, learn new skills, and simulate positive outcomes. Will you remember emergency trivia from a quiz you took on a FEMA website? Maybe. Will you remember how it felt to assemble an emergency kit while being chased by zombies? No question.
I plan to meet with civic leaders, game designers, community organizers, and first responders in each city. These interviews will shed light on how we can bridge the gap between government preparedness programs and the communities they are trying to reach. I want to learn how different regions are preparing for different threats. I also want to know what would motivate young people to become prepared. What grabs their attention? What speaks to them? What do they WANT to learn in preparation for a the worst case scenario?
Here is a short list of individuals / organizations I'd love to meet:
University of New Mexico Game Design Program students
Albuquerque Office of Emergency Management
Code For America – Kansas City Brigade
Code For America - Click That Hood designers
Organizers behind the Chattanooga Emergency Preparedness Fair
In the short term, this project is designed to culminate in a disaster preparedness game at the final stop of MTP (Miami). But in the long term, I want this project to create a larger dialogue on how we can strengthen our communities through innovative disaster preparedness games.
In addition to chronicling the journey through a dedicated Tumblr site (and publicizing through Facebook, Instagram & Twitter), I'd enlist the help of a videographer in Miami to record the outcome of the game.