Promoting a Weather Ready Nation Through Serious Games

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Monday, 5 January 2015: 11:30 AM
125AB (Phoenix Convention Center - West and North Buildings)
David Harrison, University of Oklahoma, Norman, OK; and Z. A. Roux, A. McGovern, and W. G. Blumberg

Weather Ready is a simulator-style game for the iPad and iPhone designed by the authors to teach children and adults about the complexities of storm development and severe weather preparedness. Building off aspects of popular simulator games such as SimCity, Weather Ready places the player in the seat of an elected city official tasked with improving weather preparedness and disaster mitigation planning. At the beginning of the game, users learn how severe storms develop by experimenting with the many ingredients responsible for severe storms. Players are able to place frontal boundaries around their city, adjust temperature gradients, set instability, and modify other environmental parameters in order to generate a variety of severe weather events. The more severe storms the player creates, the more funding they will receive to spend later in the game. When the user is satisfied with their custom severe weather environment, Weather Ready then calculates the likely storm mode and areal coverage before classifying the system as a low, moderate, or high risk event. The storm is then assigned to a pseudo-random in-game calendar date. The game then transitions to a city management mode where players are tasked with preparing their city for the expected storms. There, users carefully spend city funds to build tornado sirens, public storm shelters, and sponsor severe weather safety campaigns. As their city becomes more weather ready and endures stronger storms, new upgrades and features will become available, presenting the player with numerous choices to help them to make “weather smart” decisions. If a severe weather event occurs during this mode, the player can monitor the local radar in order to warn residents to take cover if a tornado appears imminent. Should a tornado actually hit the city, the player will have the ability to “steer” the tornado with the intent of avoiding the more densely populated and weaker sections of their city. Afterwards, the player must decide how to best spend funds to repair damaged structures. Similar to real life, users must find a way to balance meteorological uncertainty with money, time, and popularity to maintain their credibility and keep their citizens safe. It is the ultimate goal of Weather Ready for players of all ages to come away with a better understanding of the complexities of the weather, a thorough knowledge of proper storm safety, and an appreciation for some of the challenges faced by real forecasters and warning coordinators, thus helping to promote the idea of a Weather Ready Nation.