Geoscience Game Jams 2021 #vEGU21Games #vEGU21

The abstract deadline for this year’s meeting of the European Geoscience Union (EGU) has passed. The Games for Geoscience crew are all very excited to be hosting our fourth science session at the meeting and we have a great line up of brilliant presentations to be shared. We are also desperately sad we can’t meet face-to-face, stuff said faces with kasekrainer, and wash it down with a glass of Sturm* in beautiful Vienna. Last year’s virtual Geoscience Games Night was a decent ‘sticking plaster’ but with more time to prepare we want to do something far better in 2021.

modern bridge over river in city
Photo by Dimitry Anikin on

The first piece of good news is that there will be an interactive, social Geoscience Games Night. In fact, there will be two in order for people in different timezones to participate. We will have more details on these closer to the meeting.

The second piece of good news is that we will be hosting an EGU Games Jam. In fact, there will be two! Covering analogue (table, card, board games etc) games, we have the EGU Games Jam and for videogame entries, we have the EGU Videogame Jam. Both will be open to submissions at the start of February and will close at the end of March, followed by a period of public voting, with the top entries featured during the main EGU meeting. Winners will be announced during one of the Geoscience Games Nights.

Photo by Jonathan Petersson on

Both the Game Jams will be hosted on the itch platform and can be viewed, downloaded, and/or played online via the platform. Each Jam has different rules so please read them carefully – for example, the analogue Game Jam limits you to games that can be printed on just four pieces of A4 paper, with the only additional components being dice and common household items. The Videogame Jam is more open and will also run as a place to showcase existing games**. The prize for both Jams is being able to call your game the EGU Game/Videogame of the Year and maybe a small trophy***.

The EGU Game Jam hosted by the Manchester Game Studies Network

The EGU Videogame Jam hosted by the SeriousGeoGames Lab

person tossing globe
Photo by Valentin Antonucci on

Finally – what do we mean by Geoscience? Well, we’re not going to massively strict on this but we want to see some link. Below is a list of the topic areas covered by EGU –

Atmospheric Sciences; Biogeosciences; Climate: Past, Present, Future; Cryospheric Sciences; Earth Magnetism & Rock Physics; Energy, Resources and the Environment; Earth & Space Science Informatics; Geodesy; Geodynamics; Geoscience Instrumentation & Data; Geomorphology; Geochemistry, Minerology, Petrology & Volcanology; Hydrological Sciences; Natural Hazards; Nonlinear Processes in Geosciences; Ocean Sciences; Planetary & Solar System Sciences; Seismology; Stratigraphy, Sedimentology & Palaeontology; Soil System Sciences; Solar-Terrestrial Sciences; Tectonics & Structural Geology.

If that list does not mean much to you, basically a Geoscience game could cover anything from games aimed to teach people about the geological structure of the Earth****, games aimed at helping communities prepare for volcanic eruptions or flooding, to games that aim to persuade people to switch to energy efficient light bulbs to help reduce climate change. It’s a very wide scope and we want to be as inclusive as we can.

There’s nothing left to see but – go create!

Chris (@FloodSkinner)

*I’ve never managed to actually try Sturm yet, EGU is the wrong time of year for it…

**We’re not expecting you to develop a whole new videogame in two months!

***If we can find a budget for this.

****Other planetary bodies are available.

Games 4 Geoscience: Season 4 #Games4Geo #vEGU21

I am very pleased to announce that the Games for Geoscience session has been renewed for its fourth season – so Games 4 Geoscience I guess!

This year we know well in advance that the European Geoscience Union meeting will be virtual in 2021. Even though that means we have to make do with our own rubbish homemade schnitzel, it means we can make plans to make sure Games 4 Geoscience and the Geoscience Games Night are the best they can be in the virtual world.

We have slightly changed the description of the session for vEGU21 and we will be welcoming abstracts regarding any form of gaming, game-based approach, or use of gaming technology, at any stage of research, in education, or for engaging the public with research and/or geosciences. There’s no excuse – get those abstracts submitted!

You can find more details of the session here.

As Games 4 Geoscience is Education and Outreach Section (EOS) led, a submission to the session does not prohibit you from submitted a second abstract to the regular sections under EGU’s one abstract rule. More research, more presentations, more exposure!

We can also tell you that we will be planning a Games Jam to support the Games Night. This is your opportunity to create your own analogue or digital games and share them with the world. EGU will also be providing us some small prizes for the best games. It’s time to get creative, we’ll release more details early next year. We are so excited about this!

Myself (Chris), Jaz, Liz, Sam, and Rolf are really looking forward to seeing you all in Cyber-Vienna next year. In the meantime you can relive last year’s virtual Geoscience Games Night in the video below.

Earth Arcade @ Waterline

The heroes of 2020, Jedward*, once famously said that we are “close to the Waterline”. They were not wrong, as the Humber’s Waterline Summit kicks off next week, commencing 19th October 2020. The Summit highlights the region’s ambitions and plans to not only become carbon net-zero but also to become the world-leader in environmental transformation. This year’s theme is “Countdown to COP26″**.

The Earth Arcade is returning to Waterline for 2020, only this time virtually. Last year we hosted the Environment Agency’s Humber 2100+ team and #theHullWeWant project, showcased our Rising Tide powerpoint game, and shared Inundation Street for the first time – little did we know that a year later nearly 1.2 million people would have viewed it on YouTube!

With a virtual exhibit we can share lots of our activities and also some activities from our friends. You can try our popular 360 videos, Flash Flood! and Inundation Street, and be amongst the first to try new ones, By the Rising Tide of Humber and Help Callum. If you want to play games, then you can see how long you can survive in Crabby’s Reef, experience the ups and downs of flood recovery with Flood Snakes and Ladders and Get Floods Ready, or build a new green society in the Bioeconomy Game. You can also explore the Environment Agency’s Humber 2100+ interactive storymap, and learn how you can get involved as a playtester/citizen scientist with Kelly Stanford’s Resilience card game (before its official launch!).

On Monday 19th October 13:00-14:00 do not miss the “The Culture of Climate Change Debate” featuring EEI researchers Briony McDonagh (By Rising Tide of Humber), Christina Roggatz (Crabby’s Reef), and Kelly Stanford (Resilience). More EEI researchers will be speaking throughout the week also!

The virtual Earth Arcade exhibit at Waterline 2020

During Waterline there will be opportunity for attendees to visit the exhibit, try the activities, and also chat to people behind them. You can try any of the activities and games at any point in the week but we have themed some of our sessions, so if there’s something specific you want to know you can make sure to find the right person.

Monday 19th October 11:00-12:30 – The SeriousGeoGames Lab with Chris Skinner – Learn more about the mission and work of the project and chat about any of the games.

Monday 19th October 14:00-15:00 – The SeriousGeoGames Lab with Chris Skinner.

Tuesday 20th October 11:00-12:30 – Crabby’s Reef with Christina Roggatz – Learn more about the science behind the game.

Tuesday 20th October 14:00-15:00 – By Rising Tide of Humber with Stewart Mottram – Learn more about how poet Andrew Marvell’s Hull was brought to life.

Wednesday 21st October 11:00-12:30 – Betajester – Learn more about their game development work and their work on Flash Flood!, Inundation Street, By Rising Tide of Humber, and Crabby’s Reef.

Wednesday 21st October 14:00-15:00 – The SeriousGeoGames Lab with Chris Skinner.

Thursday 22nd October 14:00-15:00 – Help Callum with Alison Lloyd-Williams and Chris Skinner – Learn more our new 360 experience, Help Callum, and also about Lancaster University’s Flood Snakes and Ladders and Get Floods Ready.

If you’d like to attend the Waterline Summit, registration is still open and is FREE. Just head over to the website. For now, it’s only right we give Jedward the last word.

*Jedward are in no way affiliated with us or the Waterline Summit and the Waterline in their song is a metaphorical one reflecting them being ‘out of their depth’ and does not refer to the Summit.

**COP26 is the United Nation’s 26th Climate Change Conference, due to be held in Glasgow, November 2021. Find out more here.

Help Callum 360 Premiere – September 30th 2pm BST

Over the summer we have been working hard with our friends from Lancaster University and the Environment Agency on our latest 360 experience, Help Callum. We are very pleased to announce that it is ready for us to share it with the world but you will have to wait a little longer –

Help Callum will premiere on the SeriousGeoGames Lab’s YouTube channel on September 30th 2020 at 14:00 BST. To make sure you’re amongst the first to try it, head over to the channel now and set a reminder.

Watch Help Callum from 14:00 BST on September 30th.

Help Callum puts you in the shoes of a child navigating their way through flood recovery. It isn’t easy for Callum after his family’s flat was flooded and they had to leave in a hurry. Living away from home, his school, and his friends, he was scared and lonely. Even after he could move back home, he still struggled to overcome these fears.

However, despite all of this, Callum became an agent for change. Helped by the team at Lancaster University, Callum was able to tell his story and campaign for things to be different, for children to be better supported when they are affected by flooding.

A child stands alone in the rain.
“Callum could see that things were not right in his street. How would you help him?”

Our new experience tells this story using his words and through his eyes. We hope the experience will make you more aware of the issues families might face during times of crisis. Most of all, we hope it reminds you of the awesome resilience and capabilities young people have to make the world a better place.

As with all our 360 experiences, they are best viewed on a mobile device via the YouTube App. Help Callum is compatible with Google Cardboard and similar headsets for a more immersive experience.

Who is going to help Callum?

We have some exciting news! We have teamed up with the Environment Agency and sociologists at Lancaster University to create a brand new 360 experience. The new video will tell the story of Callum, a young boy whose house was flooded, using his own words, and seeing through his eyes.

Often the story of flood recovery is an untold one. Houses and streets underwater make good headlines but once the water has drained away, who is left to tell the story of those left behind to try and rebuild their lives? A recent survey of those impacted by flooding in Hull in 2007, conducted by the Energy and Environment Institute and commissioned by the Living with Water Partnership, highlighted the issues of flood recovery, finding that 90% of those affected suffered additional health and wellbeing impacts. A crucial way of improving this is to tell the stories of flood survivors.

Children and young people can be severely affected by flooding. They are seldom given the tools to know what to do in a flood or how to cope with being uprooted from their homes, schools, and friends for a long time. Researchers at Lancaster University developed creative workshops with flood-affected children to help them tell their stories.

In workshops run by sociologists at Lancaster University children created models showing the hard work of flood recovery.

One of those stories, Callum’s, is the basis of the new video. Working with developers Lampada Digital Solutions we will put you into Callum’s situation as he and his parents have to deal with flooding in their home. It will help you see the world through the eyes of a young person, helping you understand the unique difficulties children have to deal with, and help you sense the fears and loneliness they feel. Throughout the video we offer pauses for reflection and ask what would you do to help Callum in this situation.

The ability of 360 video to immerse you into a scene combined with a powerful true narrative we hope will spread Callum’s story far and wide – for example, our Inundation Street video has been viewed over 800,000 times in little over six months. We will also be using innovative technology to produce an interactive version to use with our Earth Arcade VR headsets.

Development of the Help Callum experience has started and is due to be completed in early September 2020. Keep an eye of the SeriousGeoGames and Lancaster Twitter accounts to keep up to date with the latest news.

New @EEIatHull Research – The impact of different rainfall products on landscape modelling simulations

Research led by Energy and Environment Institute Research Fellow, Chris Skinner, has recently been published in the journal Earth Surface Processes and Landforms. The research, featuring an international team from Hull, Bristol, and Zurich, showed how different methods of measuring rainfall can lead to different predictions of landscape change in computer models.

Rainfall is a slippery thing. For those of us in the UK, we are very much aware that it can be raining one minute and then sunny the next, or it can be raining over your house but not over your friend’s house just a few streets away. This makes it a difficult thing to measure accurately and consequently meteorologists use several methods to try and do so.

The simplest way is to use a rain gauge. There are many different designs but, essentially, they are mostly all glorified buckets that fill with water as it rains, although some do take different approaches. They generally give us a good idea of how much rain has fallen at that spot between the times readings are taken. By automating the readings we can get a good idea of how the rainfall rate has changed over time.

Rain gauges cannot tell us how much rain has fallen outside the bucket. This is generally ok if you are still close to the bucket but the further away you get, the more of a problem this becomes. By using lots of rain gauges we can get a better idea of how the rainfall is varying across an area and we can use geostatistics to try and fill the gaps. However, the results will be different depending on the geostatistical method you decide to use.

Weather radar on the other hand is able to tell us the relative intensity of rainfall over an area. The radar sends out signals that are bounced back to it by rain and depending on the timing and strength of that signal we can tell where it is raining, and the areas it is heaviest. It does not directly measure the rain though and it needs calibrating against a reference point. This calibration may be less accurate as you move away from the reference point or if conditions change over time.

The consequence of this is the availability of different methods to measure rainfall, the results of which we call products. Each product will be different in its estimation of where, when, and how much rain has fallen and with many computer models of rivers relying on a measurement of rainfall as an input, the choice of product can have a big influence on the results from the model.

Landscape evolution models (LEMs) are designed to model changes to the Earth’s surface, usually over large areas and long time periods (at least one hundred years). Some of these models have become sophisticated and fast enough they can be used to explore more local and shorter-term changes. They need to use a rainfall product to run yet only rarely does a product exist that has a record long enough to cover the time scales simulated. Instead, we can use weather generators that take the characteristics of rain as recorded by a product to create long records of rainfall that are possible and likely based on the data.

Graphical abstract from Skinner et al (2020). The chart shows the changing pattern of erosion and deposition from the channel head to the catchment outlet after 1500 years of computer model simulation. The different colours represent the results using the different rainfall products. The records that produced the most change were based on longer records that contain heavier rainfall events.

In newly published led by EEI Research Fellow, Chris Skinner, a weather generator was used to produce long rainfall records based on different rainfall products, as well as a combination of information taken from each product. These synthetic records of rainfall were used to run a landscape evolution model for periods of 50 and 1500 years, finding that the patterns of erosion and deposition varied along a river depending on which product was initially used.

Due to the relationship between river flows and the movement of sediment in rivers, something known as the geomorphic multiplier, a small increase in river flow can result in a large increase in the amount of material eroded and transported by the river. This makes models of erosion and deposition extremely sensitive to changes in rainfall and consequently, the initial choice of rainfall product used can have a big influence on the model results.

As these modelling approaches are increasingly used to help understand the impacts of climate change or to help predict flood risk, understanding how the choice of rainfall product can impact results is crucial and needs to be properly managed by modellers.

You can read the full article here.

Playing Crabby’s Reef using bananas!

Last week we launched our new game, Crabby’s Reef, in time for World Ocean’s Day. Since then it has been played hundreds of times through our website, yet still no one has managed to beat my top score!

For an extra fun way to play the game, you can actually use bananas instead of your keyboard buttons. Yes, you read that right, you can play using bananas!

It is quite appropriate, as everyone knows Bananaman is the greatest superhero.

All you need is a Makey-Makey and some bananas* – hook everything up making sure you remember which banana controls what, and off you go.

Show us your attempts on Twitter and let us know if you get on the Leader’s Board!


SeriousGeoGames at #shareEGU20

The annual General Assembly of the European Geoscience Union, or EGU, sadly is not meeting in Vienna this year. However, the organisers have pulled off no less than a miracle, transferring a conference of ~16,000 people to 100% online in less than five weeks. It’s an amazing feat, and surely will help reduce the carbon footprint, and democratise, the sharing of the science in the future. The conference started this week and is free to attend – check out the website for more.

The SeriousGeoGames Lab is involved in a number of presentations and activities across the week, and I just want to highlight some of these here.

First, the Geoscience Games Night is back in an online format on Wednesday 6th May, 16:15 CEST (15:15 in the UK). Last year we had over 300 people attend the physical event so hopefully many will tune in to watch the crew play games together online and chat about geoscience, games, and where they intersect. Find out more here.

The Games for Geoscience science session is scheduled for a chat on Thursday May 7, starting at 18:15 CEST (17:15 in the UK). You can view and comment on the display materials now, until the end of May. Find out how researchers are using games to aid and share their work.

Research featuring members of the Energy and Environment Institute is being shared across the week. All these displays are open for comments outside of the chat sessions right up until the end of May, so don’t worry if you’ve missed them –

Blame it on the Weatherman: How critical is rainfall to geomorphology?

EGU2020-13216 | Displays | GM5.1/HS13.18/SSP3.15 | Highlight 

Chris Skinner, Nadav Peleg, Tom Coulthard, and Peter Molnar
Mon, 04 May, 08:30–10:15 | D1167

Resilience – Combining Sci-Art and card games for more effective public engagement

EGU2020-9987 | Displays | EOS4.2   

Kelly Stanford and Chris Skinner
Thu, 07 May, 16:15–18:00 | D3533


Hydro-geomorphological response to changes in the spatial structure of extreme rainfall in a warmer world

EGU2020-1563 | Displays | HS4.1/NH1.8  

Nadav Peleg, Chris Skinner, Simone Fatichi, and Peter Molnar
Wed, 06 May, 16:15–18:00 | D118

Earth Arcade’s The Forest: Scenographic engagement spaces

EGU2020-13264 | Displays | EOS4.4  

Christopher Skinner, Amy Skinner, and Cat Fergusson Baugh
Thu, 07 May, 14:00–15:45 | D3554


Learn from home – modelling sea level rise and flooding video

We hope you are all keeping yourselves as safe as possible during the current period. We are very much missing being out and about and sharing our games and activities with everyone. To help share some of our work, Chris will be making short video tutorials and the first revisits the very beginnings of the SeriousGeoGames Lab and how we model the impacts sea level rise will have on flood risk.

The model used by Chris in the video is the Beta version of Humber in a Box (our first virtual reality activity) as used at Hull SciFest in 2014. The model code and data from this model were used by the developers to build into Unity-3D and add the beautiful, immersive, graphics. Sadly, Humber in a Box can no longer be used but you can get an idea of what it was like in the video below.

To go alongside the new tutorial, we are making the files for Humber in a Box Beta available so you can try it at home. It should run reasonably well on any modern PC. For a guide on how to get it running, skip to 10 minutes through the tutorial. Files can be downloaded from here.

Don’t forget to check out our previous post on how to use Flash Flood! from home too.

Enjoy and stay safe!

Try Flash Flood! at home

We find ourselves in difficult and testing times. We would love to be out there and sharing our games and virtual reality simulations with everyone but we at home doing the right thing. But, that doesn’t mean we cannot share some of games with you and we’ll be sharing these as we can.

Flash Flood

Flash Flood! has been our flagship activity for many years and has seen several iterations. There are several ways you can enjoy it from home, the easiest being the 360 videos available on YouTube. These can be viewed on a Desktop, where you can navigate the direction of view using your mouse, but are best viewed on a Tablet or Phone (via the YouTube app NOT a browser) where you can change the direction of view by moving your device.

There are two versions. One with narration to guide you through –

And one with just sound effects intended for use in classes where someone will guide the group –

If you’re viewing on a phone and have a cardboard headset, click the google icon on the screen and place your phone into the headset for a VR-like experience.

Obviously, the best way to experience Flash Flood! is to play it. You can do this too by downloading the Desktop version. This was designed to work on a reasonably low spec of PC and can be operated with either an XBOX controller or just a keyboard and mouse.

Download the files from SourceForge here. If you have an XBOX controller choose FlashFloodDesktopInstall.exe and FlashFloodDesktopNoRadialsInstall.exe if you do not. Controls can be found in the Flash Flood Quick Start and Controls PDF document.

Whichever method you choose, the Living Manual (also in SourceForge) provides some background information, guidance for using it, and advice for using it in teaching. This document has not been updated for a while and we will be reviewing it in the next few days. We welcome submission of ideas of how to use these simulations to include in the Living Manual, if you’d like to contribute please contact us at seriousgeogames at hull dot ac dot uk.

We’d also love to hear your suggestions for content you’d like to see from us, feel free to ask and we’ll try our best. Keep yourselves safe and happy.

Chris Skinner