SeriousGeoGames’ 2018 Review

We have had a fantastic and extremely busy 2018. Definite highlights have been the redevelopment of Flash Flood!, exhibiting in the Natural History Museum, and obviously, launching the Earth Arcade. In fact we have been so busy, we’re going to show you our highlights month-by-month.

January

We had over 80 school pupils from Newland St John’s visit us and try Flash Flood! and River in a Box as they learnt about flooding.

February

Our founder and SeriousGeoGamer, Chris Skinner, was awarded a University of Hull Research Excellency Award for Outstanding Impact, Outreach or Engagement, for his work with SeriousGeoGames.

March

In March we took Flash Flood! along to demonstrate at the Flood and Coast conference. We were part of a stand promoting our new home, the Energy and Environment Institute at the University of Hull.

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The Energy and Environment Institute stand at Flood and Coast 2018.

April

2018 saw the first ever, unofficial, Games Day at the European Geoscience Union‘s General Assembly in Vienna, Austria. Chris Skinner convened a full science session sharing how researchers use games to research, teach, or share geosciences, and then in the evening over 200 scientists came together to play the games.

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Promotional image made for the EGU Games Day 2018.

Articles featuring Flash Flood! were published in Teaching Geography and Geographical Review magazines.

May

In May we started putting together the kit and branding for the Earth Arcade, and its fist outing was supporting a visit of a delegation from the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD). We even featured on the front page of their newsletter.nepad.png

Chris Skinner demonstrating the Earth Arcade interactive touchtable.

The kit we put together includes five full VR stations and a large interactive touchscreen table.

Later in the month we spoke to over 500 members of the public at the Natural History Museum, as we were joined by colleagues from the University of Reading to demonstrate Flash Flood!. The event was part of the Museum’s half-term programme supporting NERC’s Operation Earth.

Demonstrating Flash Flood! at the Natural History Museum.

June

Chris Skinner shared Flash Flood! at the Natural History Museum with a Nature Live talk.

July

We were invited to participate in the Living with Water project’s Hulltimate Challenge event, and we took a copy of Flash Flood! down to Queen Victoria Square, central Hull, to support the press launch of the event. This was the first time we used the branded Earth Arcade kit in public.

August

We launched the Earth Arcade officially to colleagues within the University of Hull with an event held in the Map Library of the Cohen Building.

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Setting up the Earth Arcade branding for the first time in the Map Library.

September

In September things got really busy! We started by once again teaming up with BetaJester to redevelop Flash Flood! for our new Earth Arcade kit – Vol.2 features sound effects, voice overs, improved graphics, and greater realism.

As part of the British Science Festival, hosted at the University of Hull, we took three activities down to Humber Street for an evening science street party. We demoed Flash Flood!, Humber in a Box, and our touchscreen table.

Earth Arcade assets at the British Science Festival.

At the Hull Science Festival we officially launched the Earth Arcade to the public and exhibited a mini-festival within the festival itself. In our Earth Arcade we showed the Flash Flood! Vol.2 for the first time, Plastic Ocean Fishing, Flood City – Hull, Humber in a Box, and a collection of Top Trump card games.

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The first ever Earth Arcade at Hull Science Festival.

For the second time we were nominated for the HEY Digital Award for Best Use of Technology in Education, but lost out to the excellent Ron Dearing UTC.

We collaborated with colleagues across the University to use our games and research to help with teaching students, including assisting with modules in Drama, Digital Media, and Computer Science.

A delegation of flood risk practitioners from Sweden were visiting Hull to learn from the local City Council and the Living with Water project. We were invited to share Flash Flood! Vol.2 with them, and even got a tour of the Hull Tidal Barrier.

At the end of the month, Chris Skinner spoke to over 50 City of Culture volunteers about the University of Hull’s research into plastic pollution and the #MyPlasticPledge project as part of a masterclass for the launch of the Hull Refill scheme.

October

The big event of October was the Living with Water’s Hulltimate Challenge – a huge 10 km assault course around the centre of Hull. The Earth Arcade was a sponsor, we exhibited Flash Flood Vol.2 and Ocean Plastic Fishing, and large team from the Energy and Environment Institute successfully completed the course.

Team EEI and the Earth Arcade at the Hulltimate Challenge.

We were invited to bring the Earth Arcade to the Manchester Science Festival via a Platform for Investigation at the Manchester Museum of Science and Industry. This was our first ever plastic pollution focused event.

PI – The Problem with Plastics at Manchester Science Festival.

The University of Hull stand at Scarborough Science and Engineering Week won an award for Most Informative Exhibit, and we were pleased to be part of this stand with Flash Flood! Vol.2.

November

November saw Flash Flood! come home. The original Flash Flood! was produced for and funded by the NERC Flooding from Intense Rainfall (FFIR) research programme, and with the programme coming to a conclusion we were invited to provide a Games Room at the final showcase for the event at the Royal Society, London. We brought along the full set of Flash Flood Vol.2, Flood City – Hull, and were joined by games from University of Reading and Sam Illingworth of Manchester Metropolitan University.

Exhibits and the Earth Arcade at the NERC-FFIR Showcase.

The final public event of the year for us was using Flash Flood! Vol.2 to promote the Energy and Environment Institute at the Scarborough Business Day, where the keynote speaker was former Deputy Prime Minister, Lord John Prescott.

The EEI stand at Scarborough Business Day

December

We ended the year as we begun with a visit from pupils from local schools who used Flash Flood! Vol.2 as part of a workshop looking at flooding and geomorphology.

Finally, we were part of a team including #MyPlasticPledge and Kids Against Plastic looking at how we can all reduce the amount of plastic waste we produce at Christmas, with the 12 Days if Plastic-free Christmas.

2019

2019 promises to be an equally busy and exciting year and will see the development of new games, including  Inundation Street (an urban-based VR flood simulator), and Resilience (a collectible card game). It is also sad as we say farewell and good luck to SeriousGeoGame veteran, Chloe Morris, as she travels to Australia to start the next stage of her career – we will miss you Chloe!

Good bye Chloe… 😦

Thank you everybody who has supported us in 2018, and a special thank you to all the volunteers who have helped us bring our games to the public – we really couldn’t do it without you.

12 Days of Plastic-free Christmas – A Christmas Repeat

Would it even be Christmas if you weren’t subjected to endless repeats? Christmas repeats are good though – it doesn’t matter if you’ve seen it hundreds of times the sight of Del Boy and Rodney saving the day dressed as Batman and Robin is still funny 22 years on. That’s why we are bringing you a repeat of the 12 Days of Plastic-free Christmas.

The 12 Days of Plastic-free Christmas was produced by a partnership between Earth Arcade, #MyPlasticPledge, and the Energy and Environment Institute at the University of Hull, with special contributions from Kids Against Plastic and Kate Smith. Each day we looked at a small part of Christmas, highlighted some of the plastic related issues with it, and suggested a quick, easy, and cheap way to reduce that impact. You can see each post by clicking the links below.

Day One – Christmas Cards

Christmas cards, as suggested by their name, are usually made of card. However, they can contain plastic elements such as glitter.

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Day Two – Christmas Decorations

Most shop-bought house decorations are made of plastic. Check this post for some ideas of how to make your own, beautiful and plastic-free, alternatives.

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Day Three – Christmas Wreaths

A beautiful wreath can look stunning on your front door, set across a backdrop of snow and lights. How can you make sure yours is free of plastic?

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Day Four – Christmas Trees

Is a plastic tree worth it, even if you use for it a decade or more? Is pulling a tree out of the ground any better?

We also hear from Amy and Ella from Kids Against Plastic who show us how to make some gorgeous plastic-free decorations.

Plastic Free Christmas Decorations

Day Five – Mince Pies

We really hope there is no plastic inside any mince pie, but shop-bought ones come wrapped into plastic, foil and card. Kate shares her family recipe for making your own.

Hannah and Ellie from #MyPlasticPledge chat about the packaging around mince pies.

Day Six – Refillable Gifts

Stuck for a Secret Santa gift or a handy stocking filler and don’t want to waste cash on some pointless plastic trinket? Try one of these great refillable gifts.

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Day Seven – Wrapping Paper

There is a surprising amount of plastic in wrapping paper, from labels, ribbon and glitter, to plastic infused with the paper itself. How can you be sure it’s plastic-free? Try the scrunch test or make your own.

Lucie tells us all about the plastic in wrapping paper.

Day Eight – Reindeer Food

Making reindeer food is a fun activity to do with the kids and to inject some Christmas magic. However, most recipes will use glitter. We share our plastic-free recipe.

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Day Nine – Christmas Stockings

What can be better than a traditional stocking, filled with toys, sweets, and fruit, hanging over the open fire. A plastic-free one obviously, unless you’ve been naughty and it’s full of dirty coal.

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Day Ten – Christmas Crackers (Outsides)

Bang! Aren’t Christmas Crackers fun? But that shiny card contains plastic – how can you possibly make your own?

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Day Eleven – Christmas Crackers (Insides)

Jumping frogs, fake mustaches, tiny combs – just what is the use of the plastic objects you get inside the Crackers?

Day Twelve – Christmas Dinner

Finally, the big day, and the wonderful Christmas Dinner – Turkey, potatoes, pigs-in-blankets, sprouts, and piles and piles of plastic packaging and waste. make your own canvas bag and buy loose vegetables to keep your waste to a minimum.

So that was our 12 Days of Plastic-free Christmas. If you have tried one of tips, we would love to see your efforts – feel free to share them with us either here, on our Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter.

Thank you to all who helped and contributed – Katie Parsons, Kate Smith, Flo Halstead, Freija Mendrick, Phil Bell-Young, Chris Skinner, the Meek family, Lucie Parsons, Dan Parsons, Hannah Lightley, Ellie Bartle, and Kat Sanders.

It’s #GameOn for #EarthArcade at the @LivingWithH20 Hull-timate Challenge

It is with immense excitement that we can reveal that the Energy and Environment Institute (EEI) will be sponsoring the Humbergeddon “take-off” slide at the Hull-timate Challenge obstacle course.

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The 10k route will snake its way through Hull City Centre on the 19th-21st October 2018, punctuated by 30 immense and challenging obstacles. Competitors will have to prove their resilience in order to complete the grueling circuit.

And resilience really is the theme of the event as it has been organised by the Living With Water project, which brings together partners from Yorkshire Water, Hull City Council, East Riding Of Yorkshire Council, the Environment Agency, to help increase people’s awareness and ability to cope with future flooding.

Earth Arcade Banner

They’ve also been looking at wider environmental issues, such as plastic pollution, which means that EEI and Living With Water have been friends from the off, and it’s only right we support this awesome event.

As well as sponsoring Humbergeddon, we’ll also be bringing the Earth Arcade to the Resilience Fair in Queen’s Gardens, showing off River in a Box and Flash Flood! Vol 2.

Read the University of Hull Press Release here.

The Earth Arcade – It’s GAME ON for solving environmental issues #EarthArcade #GameOn

Today we launched the Earth Arcade, our brand new project and most ambitious one to date.

The Earth Arcade is a space for us to bring together all our games and activities and share them with you. It will allow to us to meet more people and share the latest environmental research more widely.

Earth Arcade 3M Banner

As part of the Energy and Environment Institute, University of Hull, will we focus on key environmental issues faces us now and in the future, such as

  • how do we manage climate change?
  • how do we make flooding less damaging?
  • how do we reduce our use of plastics?
  • how do we make sure we have enough food for everyone?
  • how do we make enough energy without harming ourselves and the planet?

And in SeriousGeoGames tradition, we will be doing this through the medium of games!

This is our Earth. This our Arcade. And we want to show that when it comes to dealing with environmental issues, like climate change and plastics, it isn’t game over, it’s game on!

Find us at Hull Science Festival, 15th-16th September 2018, in the Discovery Zone.

Find out more about the University of Hull’s research into environmental issues.

The World Cup in VR!

You might have noticed that we love virtual reality (VR for short). We also love football (you have to if you want to lead Scunthorpe United to the Champion’s League on Football Manager). As you’d expect then, we are very excited about the news that the BBC will be showing games from the 2018 World Cup in VR.

The easiest way to do this is using your smartphone and downloading the BBC’s App. You turn your phone into a VR headset using a Cardboard-style device. We have given away hundreds of these during events, including given one to every delegate at the 2017 Annual Meeting of the British Society for Geomorphology, so now is the time to dig it out.

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Image by Natural Environment Research Council (NERC)

If you don’t have one you can pick them up for a few pound on line – just search Cardboard VR headset and shop around.

With the World Cup still a little while off, why not try some of the 360 videos on our YouTube channel, including our new tour of the Humber (remember to view via the YouTube App on smartphones and tablets!).

We’re bringing Flash Flood! to the @NHM_London for #OperationEarth 29-31 May 2018

We are super-super-super excited to tell you we will be bringing our Flash Flood! VR game to the Natural History Museum in London. We will be joining a series of other exhibits as part of the Museum’s half-term Operation Earth showcase, and we will be there from the 29th of May until the 31st of May, 11am to 4pm each day. To find out more about this event, click here.

In the last couple of years we have been at the Science Showcases for the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) – Into the Blue and Unearthed. This year, NERC are doing something a little different, working with museums and science centres to bring their Operation Earth family science show to people up and down the country. To learn more about Operation Earth and to find an event near you, click here.

We are also very excited that we’ll be joined by our friends from the University of Reading, and the NERC-funded Flooding from Intense Rainfall project (FFIR) – the project for which Flash Flood! was designed. At the event you can play Flash Flood! and meet the scientists whose research inspired it, both from Reading but also the Energy and Environment Institute (EEI) at the University of Hull.

We look forward to meeting you there!

Image Credit: NERC

Totally Scientific Eurovision Predictions… honest… #ESC2018 #AllAboard

A few years ago I used to try and predict the results of the Eurovision Song Contest. I would use a mixture of my Eurovision viewing experience, my intuition, and some dodgy statistics, all to a varying degree of success*.

The Eurovision Final 2018 will be live from Lisbon on May 12th.

The statistical approach was inspired by Google’s far more successful attempt in 2010 which used search results and Eurovision’s straight forward voting system. However, it wasn’t that difficult to pick out Lena as the winner that year.

Lena performing to 2010 winning song, Satellite.

I’d given up in recent years, mainly because of my utter lack of any form of success, but I decided to come out of retirement for one more go. This year I’m going to use a system of seven YouTube based stats, with each song ranked and scored (using the Eurovision scoring system, naturally) against each stat. The total scores will determine my final prediction.

Here are my stats, each extracted on the evening of 27th April 2018 from the official song videos from the Eurovision channel.

Most Views – Israel (12), Spain (10), Bulgaria (8), Czech Rep. (7), Sweden (6)

Most Likes – Israel (12), Spain (10), Bulgaria (8), Czech Rep. (7), Sweden (6)

Least Dislikes – Iceland (12), Slovenia (10), Poland (8), Switzerland (7), Albania (6)

Percentage of Likes to Views – Spain (12), Iceland (10), Italy (8), Greece (7), Switzerland (6)

Ratio of Likes to Dislikes (the ‘Crystal Maze’ ratio) – Spain (12), Greece (10), Switzerland (8), Italy (7), Poland (6)

Views per Person (ie, divided by country’s population) – San Marino (12), Malta (10), Israel (8), Estonia (7), FYR Macedonia (6)

Likes per Person – San Marino (12), Malta (10), Israel (8), Estonia (7), Cyprus (6)

Note, I have performed the stats as separate semi-finals because, you know, I have better things to do…

And my final positions are… *drumroll* … –

  1. Spain

Spain’s entry is a lovely song and I am sure it will do well.

2. Israel

Probably the favourite to win, I think the judges might be unfair to this one.

3.San Marino

ROBOTS!!! I LOVE THE ROBOTS!!! ALL MUSIC WITH ROBOTS IS GOOD!!!**

4.Bulgaria

5.Malta

6.Iceland

7.Greece

8.Switzerland

9.Poland

10. Italy

“But, Chris”, I hear you ask, “what about the UK’s chances?”

Well, we’re unpopular, the song is awful, and my stats place it a solid 43 out of 43 – it won’t be far off that. Be thankful for any points we may pick up. We all know what should have been our entry…

Thank you for reading this nonsense – who do you think will win this year?

Chris (@FloodSkinner)

*absolutely no success whatsoever.

**Exhibit A

Sir Killalot’s mercifully short and needlessly offensive music career.

#EGU18 Geoscience Games Night – List of Games

This year’s European Geoscience Union General Assembly will feature the first ever, and totally unofficial (at the moment), Geoscience Games Day. It has been organised by SeriousGeoGamer Chris Skinner, the creative Sam Illingworth, the inventive Rolf Hut, and the volcanic Jazmin Scarlett. All the details are in the image below.

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Games for Geoscience Oral Session

Games for Geoscience Poster Session

Geoscience Games Night

SeriousGeoGames will be supporting the Geoscience Games Night, both by providing the drinks (free beer!) and bringing along some of our games and will be debuting our prototype deck-builder card game, Flood: Attack & Defend. Below you will find a list of the games we know people are bringing, but do feel free to bring your own along too. Let us know if you’re bringing a game and we’ll add it to the list.

SeriousGeoGames – Flood: Attack & Defend (deck-builder card game)

SeriousGeoGames – Flash Flood! (short, game-like experience)

SeriousGeoGames – TideBox demo (short, game-like experience)

Sam Illingworth – Settlers of Catan: Global Warming (Board game, ~90 mins, 3-4 players)

Rolf Hut – Breath of the Wild (Zelda computer game for Nintendo Switch)

Jazmin Scarlett – Portal 1 & 2 (Physics-based videogames)

Elke Meyer – The Drift Game (Gamified visualisation)

Auguste Gires – 509 084 drops in 114 days (Interactive rain-based computer game)

Anthony Parsons – The Research Game (Competitive board game)

Jana Wendler and Emma Shuttleworth – Downpour (Interactive flood game)

David Crookall – Debriefing – (Post-game analysis)

Richard Essery – “Thinking Detectives: Climate Change in the Alps” (Game and discussion)0)

Massimiliano Zappo – Water Cycle Snakes and Ladders (Poster Game)

HEPEX Games –

Louise Arnal – “The Adventure Game: Pathways to running a flood forecast centre)

Louise Crochemore – “The Water Management Game: Test your ability to manage a water resevoir over a season”

M. H. Ramos – “The Flood Control Game: Do probabilistic forecasts lead to better decisions?”

We’re all very excited for this, and are looking forward to seeing you in Vienna on April 11th!

SeriousGeoGames at #FloodandCoast18 @FloodandCoast

This last week we’ve been at the Flood and Coast Conference in Telford, supporting an exhibit by the University of Hull’s Energy and Environment Institute (EEI). Convened by the Environment Agency, Flood and Coast brings together all the people who are working on reducing the flood risk around the UK, and helping to make people better prepared and more resilient when sadly it does happen.

The EEI exhibit was showcasing its range of research and investments, in particular around flood risk and environmental resilience. Flash Flood! was used as part of the exhibit and proved very popular, and we also took along our 360 camera. Take a look at our highlights below.

Chris Skinner takes a tour of the exhibit hall –

What is it like to be a Lego person in Atkin’s Lego flood town, part of the Emvironment Agency stand –

Chris Skinner demonstrated Flash Flood! to Clare Moriarty, CB, Permanent Secretary to DEFRA

Pics by Flo Halstead

If you want to relive Flash Flood!, try our 360 YouTube video –

See you at our next event!

Chris

Flood Defender – Developer Report

A few weeks ago we heard from the SEED Masters students working on developing TideBox. This post hears from another group developing Flood Defender, a gamified version of a long-standing flood risk management practical used in the Geohazards module at the University of Hull. Flood Defender will merge our hydraulic model with the Unreal 3D gaming engine and allow people to test their own flood defence schemes – can they stop the Uncanny Valley city from flooding, and can they do it within budget? Let’s hear how they are getting on – 

Flood Practical Gamification also known as Flood Defender is a flood simulation that takes place in the fictional Uncanny Valley city (but is based on the real city of Carlisle) which implements a simplified CAESAR-Lisflood model. The project presents many challenges and within this blog post we the developers of Flood Defender would like to talk about these challenges and experiences.

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The first challenge as a team was to familiarise ourselves with Unreal Engine 4 (UE4) which is the chosen games engine the project had previously been developed on. None of us had any prior experience and this is a constant on-going learning experience for the team throughout the development.

Another challenge the team faced was to understand the existing project as we inherited it, making improvements to the existing implementation where necessary, and continuing the progress. This is made more complicated due to a lack of design and technical documentation being passed on from previous project.

Each member of the team had different primary responsibility which they spearheaded and collaborate with fellow members to accomplish; we have Adam that works on the UI (User Interface), Christopher whom works on the flood defences, and Alex who is working on the flood model. Despite these roles each of us worked closely together to ensure each member is moving forward and is remained informed on recent changes as part of our team development strategies.

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“Working on the flood game has been an exciting new challenge for me. I was attracted to this project due the fact it was using the Unreal engine. It was a chance for me to learn a new engine and have the responsibilities of working in a team. My main responsibilities has been UI development and Zoning cost calculations. I’ve enjoyed my role in the project and look forward to future development on this.”  – Adam Davies

“The only single word I could use to describe my time on this project would be ‘Experience’, working with unreal challenged me, as my previous experience was using libraries such as DirectX and openGL. Having the chance to work using a full environment game engine was exciting to say the least.

My main responsibilities on the project began as fixing issues which existed from the previous project. This mainly consisted of limited implemented features and completely broken implemented features, most of which were associated with reset functionality of the application.

Further into the project my role changed, I began implementing features relating to flood defences. To gain a good idea of the client’s needs, multiple methods which may be used were prototyped and demonstrated, and the preferred method is being further developed into a fully implemented feature.” – Christopher Atkinson

“My main responsibility is the CAESAR-Lisflood model and this is an extremely challenging endeavour for me as I have no experience in this field. It has however been extremely satisfying for me to research this topic, reviewing existing implementations and trying to adapt the model code correctly into the flood game” – Alex Dos Santos

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We’ve been given the fortunate experience on working on such a great project and we’ve always focused on delivering the best we can to the development of the project. We have aimed from day one to leave the project in a much better state then when we initially received it and we feel as a team that we have and continue to do this. This experience has taught us, as developers, many valuable lessons that we will go on to take to our future careers.

Thank you for reading,

Adam Davies, Christopher Atkinson and Alex Dos Santos – Flood game developer team of 17-18