Last week saw the first big steps in the development phase of the project; we got the island DEM into the gaming software ready to begin building the game. The DEM is of the Caribbean island of St. Vincent which is the focus of this study. I thought it would be a good idea to explain a bit more about my project and answer some of the key questions.
What is the project?
This research aims to use video games technology and the concept of serious games (games that have a purpose beyond entertainment) to create a new volcanic hazard communication tool. The game will incorporate traditional methods of hazard communication (e.g. hazard maps) and will be an interactive, informative and fun tool which can be used to educate highly vulnerable communities about volcanic risk.
What is the purpose?
The purpose of this project is to increase awareness of volcanic hazards in communities where volcanic risk may not be a priority in day-to-day life. It aims to increase resilience through education of the associated hazards and encourage the adoption of preparation measures. The ultimate goal is for the game to be rolled out into outreach programmes across St. Vincent and the wider Caribbean region. The importance of volcanic hazards education was reinforced with the death of over 30 people in Indonesia from volcanic eruptions at Mt. Sinabung & Mt. Kelud which had remained dormant for hundreds of years. We hope that the game will not only raise awareness of volcanic risk but also provide a long lasting message on what to expect and how to prepare in case of a volcanic eruption.
Where is the study location?
The east Caribbean island of St. Vincent has been chosen for this study. The island is home to the Soufriere volcano which has a violent eruptive history which in 1902 saw a devastating eruption which led to the loss of over 1500 lives. The most recent eruption was in 1979 in which an 18 km plume rose above the volcano leading to the evacuation of over 20,000 people to emergency shelters. You can read a fantastic description of the islands eruptive history from the VolcanoDegassing blog. Since 1979 the volcano has entered a state of quiescence and a generation has now passed with no first-hand experience of an eruption. The island, like most Caribbean islands, is also prone to a range of more frequently occurring natural disasters such as the trough system which hit the island over Christmas 2013, causing the deaths of 12 people. This can lead to a prioritisation of natural hazards in which volcanic hazards are not the most significant in day-to-day life. Therefore, St. Vincent gives us the opportunity to overcome some of these issues and use new techniques to provide a lasting message of volcanic risk.
How will the game be developed?
For the development of the game we are using Unity 3D which you can download for free. There is lots of coding involved and artistic talent but the software is ideal for this project and can simulate the physics behind phenomena very effectively.
Who’s involved in the project?
The research will primarily be completed by myself as my PhD project. My project supervisors are Paul Cole (Director of Studies), Iain Stewart, Mike Phillips & Stephanie Lavau (all of Plymouth University). As my background is Geology not game development, I have someone to help build and code the game, Luke Christison of Plymouth University. We will also be working closely with the outreach team at the Seismic Research Centre (SRC) from the University of the West Indies and the Streva Project.
Hope this gives you a little insight into my research. In the meantime please feel free to contact me and I hope to share more of the development phase over the next 6 months.
Look forward to sharing more soon!