PORTLAND, Ore.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--A newly released video game can help inspire young adults to prepare for an earthquake or other natural disaster. It’s just in time for International ShakeOut Day on October 20 when people across the globe will be practicing earthquake safety.
The game is the outgrowth of a research project undertaken by a team of researchers at Lewis & Clark College, who were concerned that the Northwest lacks an “earthquake preparedness culture.” The team was curious about whether nontraditional media could be used to motivate better preparation, especially among young adults, who are often left out of messaging campaigns, which are typically targeted at heads of households and kids. The result is Cascadia 9.0, a just-released video game that allows young adults to have fun while learning how to prepare for an earthquake or other disaster.
Here’s how the game works: The player moves through a devastated city in search of their dog, Tsu (short for “tsunami”), who escaped in the aftermath of a massive earthquake. Along the way, they encounter situations that demand their attention: unpurified drinking water, aftershocks, gas leaks, and more. By the time the player is reunited with Tsu, they’ve encountered a wide variety of problems that arise before, during, and after a significant earthquake.
Created by Lewis & Clark’s Earthquake Preparedness Project, Cascadia 9.0 takes its name from the Cascadia Subduction Zone, a 600-mile fault off the Pacific Coast, which has the potential to produce a magnitude 9.0 earthquake.
The earthquake preparedness project is the brainchild of Liz Safran, associate professor of geological science and director of the Earth system science and environmental studies programs at Lewis & Clark. Convinced there was a better way to engage young adults in disaster preparedness, in 2016 Safran began assembling an interdisciplinary research team, including computer scientist Peter Drake, psychology professor Erik Nilsen, and media scholar Bryan Sebok. The preparedness project formally began 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 preparedness project throughout the multiyear research process, helping with data analysis, contributing to programming, and developing survey materials. Students also assisted with play-testing and edutainment strategies.
“We were trying to get some basic understanding of what people can learn from games and what games can do to boost people’s intentions to prepare for earthquakes,” Safran said.
While analyzing the data, the team found that participants within the video game group spent longer on their task than people in the control group, who sought information from the web. They downloaded more information right afterward and felt more confident about coping with some key earthquake-related challenges, such as finding and purifying water and having good sanitation. “We discovered that the elements they seemed to remember best and reflect on were those that required ‘stickiness,’ where they had to go through a series of actions or problem-solving to be successful in the game,” reported Nilsen, who served as the team’s lead in designing and executing experiments.
“I’m pretty pleased with the first game,” Safran said. “It covers a lot of territory. We had to make it that way because it needed to be sufficiently information-rich to compare with the web, which has all the information.”
Moving forward, the research team is planning additional experiments that will build on the data they have gained thus 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 at Cascadia9game.org.