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 –
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.
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! 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.
The Games for Geoscience sessions have been a huge success for the last two years at the European Geoscience Union General Assembly, with packed out science sessions and awesome Geoscience Games Nights. Don’t believe me, then check out this EGU blog on the 2019 EGU Games Day. This year we’ve decided to share this awesomeness across the pond and are bringing the Games for Gesocience sessions to the American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting for the first time.
Geoscience Games Night – Monday 9 the December 18:30 – 20:00 – Moscone South, Student and Early Career Scientist Lounge, Moscone South 5-6
Just like at the EGU, the Geoscience Games Night is community led and relies on people bringing their own games to play and share, so we really encourage you to do this – especially if they help us learn about and understand geoscience and environmental issues! We can help you publicise your games too, just drop me a message.
Hope you all have fun in San Francisco and make sure you share your thoughts, and photos, using #Games4Geo so I can follow along from home. Oh, and don’t forget, the call for abstracts for Season 3 of Games for Geoscience EGU is now open.
Freedom Festival is THE event in Hull. It all began in 2007 in celebration of the 200th anniversary of the abolition of the slave trade, an act passed after decades of work by Hull-born independent MP, William Wilberforce. Since 2007 it has grown massively, and in 2018 the festival had over 130,000 visitors.
“Excellent arts and culture can change lives and communities, by transmitting fundamental human values and inspiring all ages to embrace and celebrate freedom. We’ve seen it. It may be no surprise then that our ambition is founded on the legacy of Hull-born freedom advocate, William Wilberforce” – Freedom Festival website.
Chris demoing Humber in a Box at Freedom Festival 2015
SeriousGeoGames has been involved in three previous Freedom Festivals, starting in 2015 when we demoed Humber in a Box, and including 2016 when the virtual reality version of Flash Flood! was demoed to the public for the first time. With the Earth Arcade, we have the perfect opportunity to take things to the next level, and the Earth Arcade at Freedom Festival really will be something special.
The name Earth Arcade is meant to loosely evoke a sense of Arcadia – a mythical utopia where human society and the natural world live together in harmony. This is the future we hope for, the future we are striving to build, and we hope to inspire others to come with us on that journey. To create our mini-Arcadia we have teamed up with colleagues from the University’s School of the Arts to design the exhibit.
We will be exploring the impacts of the world’s most pressing environmental issues through our activities Flash Flood! Vol.2, Plastic Fishing, Top Trumps: Rivers, and small games on our Ipad stations. You will be able to find out how climate change and sea level rise will impact our city, Hull, and the wider Humber through our new and improved Rising Tide game on our big screen.
Freedom Festival will also see the debut of an exciting new activity space. The Forest is something a bit different to the rest of the Earth Arcade, and sci-comm in general. It is a quieter, reflective, and mindful space where people can sit and think about nature, with a small library of stories and ideas and crafts and workshops to inspire people to engage with nature more. We will be using theatrical and scenographic techniques to help people engage, such as interactive soundscapes.
Finally, we will be offering advice on how people can respond to the environmental issues explored, offering them the chance to sign up to becoming an Earth Arcade Champion by committing to making small changes in their own lives.
It is going to be brilliant and we hope to see you there!
The Prague Quadrennial of Scenography and Design is a conference for theatre makers, unsurprisingly held in Prague every four years. Over 11 days, 15,000 people will attend the conference, making it a huge event. My wife, Amy, is a Lecturer in Theatre and Performance and was chairing a panel at the conference, so I decided to tag along – I did so four years ago and found it inspiring, check out my previous blog from then.
We have been conscious about our carbon budget so decided we would take the train instead of flying. Unfortunately, unless you pay out for an expensive sleeper train, the journey from Hull to Prague is a little too long to do in one day so we split our journey via Brussels. Our planned route was: Hull – London – Brussels – Frankfurt – Nurnberg – Cheb – Prague.
Our route plan for Hull to Prague
Day 1 went ok, but our first train on Day 2 inexplicably terminated at Koln. A guard suggested another route and marked our tickets as no longer having restrictions. Our new route involved a near seven hour train from Koln to Dresden, before a train on to Prague. We settled into our new train and enjoyed seeing a cross-section of Germany, including places like Dortmund and Hannover. All was fine until 40 minutes from Dresden when the train suddenly stopped outside Leipzig. We stayed, electric off, in silence for nearly an hour, missing our connection in Dresden, before limping back to Leipzig and being herded onto an overcrowded train to Dresden.
The view from the train, outside Leipzig
We arrived at Dresden to see the last train to Prague pull out of the station. The nice woman at Passenger Information pointed us towards the coaches and we ended up on a Flix Bus – the bus service for backpackers, we were the oldest ones on there. We arrived in Prague just after midnight. Thankfully, our return journey along the planned route but in reverse went without a hitch, with all six trains on perfect time – a surprise considering the atrocious weather across the UK at that time.
It was stressful and long, but watching the beautiful European countryside whizz by the window was nice, especially across the Czech Republic. The journey took a lot longer than flying and did cost more, so I appreciate that it is a privilege that we were able to travel this way. However, it does allow us to reduce the impact on the environment and society from our travel quite significantly – according to ecopassenger.org we reduced the CO2 we produced by nearly 348 kg, producing less than 24 % than if we flew.
The environmental concern did not end once in Prague – the city has excellent public transport and we travelled everywhere by trams and buying tickets via an App was super easy and convenient. Keep-cups and reusable water bottles are popular, and local shops have plastic bottle deposit schemes. We saw school students participating in the climate strikes, and public areas had information boards highlighting water issues in the country and worldwide.
Climate protests in Prague
Information boards in central Prague showcasing water’s importance to society
At the Prague Quadrennial, or PQ, countries (and regions, like Quebec) are invited to exhibit the best in their scenography and design over the past four years in about a 6m x 6m space. How they choose to do this is up to each country and there is a lot of variance and creativity on display. I was pleased to see several of the exhibits making use of VR but was a little disappointed that most did little more than show flat, low resolution, 360 videos on them – Ireland’s was notable as using high resolution, stereoscopic video, interlaced with graphics (including a creepy eyeball) to show the work of some of their best designers.
Several of the exhibits featured virtual reality, including some with modified headsets
Several of the exhibits chose environmental themes. I was taken by China’s exhibit as it revolved around a long distance train journey Chinese designers travelled to get to past PQ’s – in contrast to today, it was more expensive to fly so had to go by train.
China’s exhibit used lighting, projection, and mobile phones to showcase design inspired by a long distance train journey from China to Prague
Quebec explored whether reducing our use of resources was at odds with creative freedom, and asked whether the performing arts holds the key to renewed environmentalism. They showcased the best in eco-scenography and invited visitors to complete a questionnaire whilst powering a pedal-powered propeller.
Quebec’s exhibited highlighted their designs and use of eco-scenography
Switzerland used a ski-lift carriage and a canvas held on hydraulic rods to visualise snow depth data in three dimensions, responding dynamically as the data changed resolution on the screen – you had a different perspective whether you were on the ground or one the lift.
Switzerland’s ski-lift could visualise environmental data dynamically and in three dimensions
France was one of the winning exhibits and several I spoke to said that it had moved them to tears. On the outside, harsh lights displayed the warning “No Nature, No Future” and on the other side a smoke-filled room with haunting piano music was inhabited by shaking and shivering figures made of the waste of man-made materials. It was bleak and dystopian.
The conference itself engaged with environmentalism, with espresso-sized Keep Cups for sale, and an awesome scheme where if you bought a plastic bottle then Soda Stream, one of the sponsors, would refill it for free with fizzy, flavoured water – this was 200 czk (about £7) well spent, and I really want to buy a Soda Stream now!
The way the exhibits are put together is really inspiring and I have come away with lots of ideas which I will try and use in the Earth Arcade. Portugal’s exhibit, Windows, featured mirrored metal boxes with small holes to peer through – inside were lit up models of stage designs. I would love to use this to hide away scenes of possible futures based on climate scenarios – dare you look inside?
Portugal invited you to spy on miniature design scenes through small windows
Cyprus featured a board room table with a bubbling pool of water in the middle – what about hosting a dinner around this where the water rises and falls, occasionally floods, and dinner guests can choose to purchase food, wooden blocks to hold back water, or extra place mats to raise their dinner?
A board room with a risk of flooding, from Cyprus
In Hungary’s student exhibit you had to walk through hanging plastic sticks and as they cascaded against each other it sounded like rain – through the clear floor beneath your feet were examples of design, details you cannot see outside of the ‘storm’. This was so simple, yet so effective.
I was sad to leave Prague and PQ. It’s a shame it comes around only every four years and I’ll have to wait until 2023 to go again – maybe this artists’ conference wants a resident scientist?
Phew, that’s another General Assembly of the European Geoscience Union (EGU) done. What an astonishingly busy week of sharing science, networking, catching up with colleagues from all over the world, and gorging ourselves on kasekrainer. In total there were 16,273 people at the meeting in Vienna, with 683 unique science sessions.
This year we started with our poster session and again it was busy and more interactive than the usual poster session. A poster session involves researchers producing a poster detailing their work and pinning it up on a board – during the day a couple of hours is set aside where they stand next to their poster and people can discuss the work with them. The Games for Geoscience session also involves sharing elements of games too, for example I had a poster about the Earth Arcade and also had a VR set with Flash Flood! Vol 2. being demoed.
After the posters was the oral session – these are talks where we had 6 presenters each with a 12 minute talk and a few minutes for questions. The room we were in quickly filled up and latecomers had to stand! The quality of the research was extraordinarily high, showing that when it comes to geoscience, games are a serious business.
As Sam guided the crowd through the games submitted to the Geoscience Games Night, Liz, Rolf, and myself ran down to basement to set up the area for games which included Rolf rather abruptly turfing people out of the area! Remarkably we turned this around in less than 15 minutes and soon around 300-400 geoscientists descended for two hours of gaming – we ran out of tables quickly and games were played on the floor! It was incredible.
I was testing a card game I’m developing called Resilience – it’s has little bit of complexity so isn’t suited for this type of event so needed a lot of explaining – and I am indebted to Hannah Williams for running Flash Flood! Vol 2. demos for two hours solid – Thank you Hannah! At the end of this blog is a list of all the games – if I’ve missed any, let me know and I will add them in!
These sessions were not the full extent of games at EGU 19 though. The Earth Observatory of Singapore were showing their utterly brilliant Earth Girl: Volcanogame, and its inspirational creator Isaac Kerlow presented on the work behind it in the Science and Art session. In another session, Laura Hobbs showed how the best in gaming and the best in museum curatorship were being combined to produce the Virtual Natural History Museum. I’m sure there was even more that I missed completely.
One of the things I hope to achieve through the Games for Geoscience sessions is to close the circle between games and research. I think games are seen as a useful tool for sharing research but I think they can also be used to drive and inspire research, and I was pleased to see a couple of examples of this at the meeting. One of last year’s presenters, Onno Bokhove, who built the awesome Wetropolis shared in a Hydrology session how the activity led to a method they used to calculate flood excess volumes to assess the cost effectiveness of Natural Flood Management schemes. Rolf Hut shared a methodology for assessing public and researcher perceptions of ‘jargon’ related to rivers and flooding, a methodology previously used at last year’s session with Zelda: Breath of the Wild – read that research here!
So that’s it for the EGU Games for Geoscience sessions this year. If you came along, thank you so very much. Next year we will be back, bigger and better still, but first we have our eyes on conquering America.
If you are interested in being part of the Geoscience Gaming community, please follow @GeoSciGames on Twitter – we hope to make this into a full international network in the near future.
If available, click on an image to find out more about the games –
Wednesday 10th of April will be the 2019 International Games Day (as we’re calling it, anyway) at the General Assembly of the European Geoscience Union, to be held in Vienna, Austria.
The schedule includes a full scientific programme, starting with the poster session at 2pm in Hall X4, and then the oral presentations in Room L8 at 4.15pm. Straight afterwards we head to Foyer D for the Geoscience Games Night.
We are still accepting games to play during the Games Night – this is perfect opportunity to showcase a game you have, get some play testing in for games in development, or even share games that you enjoy. Only rule, they need to have some (however loose) connection to geoscience!
I’ve been working on a prototype card game for SeriousGeoGames for a while now. The game, with the working title Resilience, sees players take control of a city and its surrounding area with the aim of staying in that job until the end of the game. The catch is there is another player with their own city also trying to reach that goal. With the ability to make events happen in each other’s cities, you each pose a threat to the other’s political survival.
Although I toyed with the idea of having multiple stresses to deal with, the game just got too unwieldy, so the focused down on flooding as the main hazard. Players can build defences, enact resilience measures, or implement things purely as they are popular – if they want to be aggressive, they can send a storm towards a rival city. Through playing the game, players will learn about the complexity of flood defence from physical, societal, and political perspectives.
360 time lapse of players trying an early version of Resilience at the EGU 18 Games Night.
The game is designed to be a deck builder, so rather than each having the same deck of cards players can choose a pile from their collection allowing them to try different strategies. I’m designing the game to have enough layers – through use of cards, dice, and tokens – that there will be numerous styles of play possible. The main goal of the design is for the game to be fun, with plenty of replay value, yet the deck building aspect adds in a further dimension – collectability.
I still have piles of Pokemon and Star Wars cards from when I was a kid, even though I never played either as a game. When I get free packs of cards in gaming magazines for games I will never play, I keep them. Especially the ‘shinies’. There is something tactile and attractive about a well-designed, crisp, high quality card, and this is something I want to tap into with Resilience.
My rubbish PowerPoint mock up (left), and Kelly’s design to use on the back of the cards (right). A big improvement!
Enter Kelly Stanford, Sci Artist. I’d been looking for an artist for a few months and seen some nice work, but no one seemed quite right for the game. Then I came across Kelly’s work on her Twitter and was blown away. She is a specialist in making science-based art and has worked on numerous public engagement projects, working in a range of styles from sculpture, hyper-realistic, and cartoon. She’s also a gamer and after a coffee meeting at the Manchester Museum of Science and Industry it was clear she got what I trying to achieve.
Here’s a some of my personal favourite artworks from 2018! 🎉 Thank you to everyone for the constant support + encouragement throughout the year and I hope you’ve enjoyed seeing my artworks as much as I’ve enjoyed making them! ❤️😊 #sciart#NewYearsEvepic.twitter.com/Bj1DmwjeKF
I commissioned her at the beginning of the year to develop the designs, and Kelly has wasted no time producing great designs for the cards – nothing like my rubbish PowerPoint efforts! So far we have the awesome logo for the back of the cards, a card template, and some concepts for the card types.
My original card template (left), Kelly’s template design (middle), and Kelly’s concept sketches.
I’m hoping to try out the first full prototype combining game and art designs at the EGU Games Night on April 10th, and after that I’m still not sure where it will go. There are several options to look at for production and dissemination, such as getting funding for a limited run, crowdfunding, getting a commercial backer, or simply releasing the game in a PDF to print your own cards. The game is designed so that additional decks can be added to the initial deck to add further complexity and variety, and I plan on offering bespoke limited edition shiny cards for events and projects.
I’m really excited about this project. I think the game has the potential to not only be fun but really help with the communication of flood risk management and its complexities and challenges. There is nothing quite like a game for putting you in someone else’s shoes. Keep an eye on this blog and Kelly’s blog for further news about Resilience.
The resolutions you make at New Year are very rarely met and even rarer is for a New Year’s resolution to be successfully completed before the year has barely got started. However, my resolution to build my own retro gaming arcade cabinet has been completed way before schedule.
My starting point was a book by John St.Clair ‘Project Arcade: Build Your Own Arcade Machine’. This tome is over 500 pages of essential guidance, advice and plans for how to make your own arcade machine from scratch and comes with a CD containing plans for different cabinet designs. However, after reading a couple of chapters I concluded I would need some more basic skills before I tried making my own.
A bit of googling and I came across the answer to my problem – the Picade. This beautiful little thing is a build-yourself mini-arcade cabinet in kit form – just add a Raspberry Pi. I promptly ordered both a Picade and a Pi 3 starter kit and waited impatiently for them to arrive. The Pi arrived first so I got playing, installing an operating system and getting it onto the internet, which surprisingly easy to do.
The Picade arrived in a gorgeous box and the components had been packaged sepaerately based on their function. I had to wait a few days before I had time to build it, so I would occasionally takes bits out and just look at them, waiting for the time to build. I also got a pack of cool stickers which now adorn the Earth Arcade flight cases.
The build took me an evening. The instructions are printed on a poster and you have to take care to follow the separate errata sheet. I found early on I was struggling to follow the written instructions, but the manufacturers have a YouTube video which takes you through the build and I found this extremely helpful.
The artwork which comes with the cabinet is on printed sheets of cards sandwiched between two clear pieces of Perspex. There are three sections – surrounding the screen, and keypad console, and the top section which overhangs the screen. I like this as it would be very easy to customise, for example to add Earth Arcade branding…
The Picade is designed to work with the RetroPie operating system which includes emulators for all sorts of retro consoles – essentially the first Playstation and anything older. The kit comes with a ‘hat’ which is an extra circuit board which sits on top of the Pi, and it has spaces for you to plug all the wires for the controls, buttons and speaker into, and is pre-programmed to be able to use all of these in RetroPie – this is brilliant for novices like myself. Similarly, there’s a piece of kit which sits between the Pi and the screen which sorts out all the magic for you. My only issues were I was little too firm connecting up the speaker and the power button and damaged the connectors – the speaker works fine, but my power button is lightless and lifeless. I got around this last issue by using a chisel to widen the access hole at the back to use the power button on the hat itself.
The build was a great challenge and I am dead chuffed with the end result. Getting RetroPie and games onto it was straightforward too once I’d found some instructions online. However, navigating the legal grey areas of abandonware and intellectual property of old games is not so straightforward, and I’m still not sure what I can use and how to obtain game files legally. This won’t be a problem if you made your own games however.
Now, I need a new resolution to keep me going until 2020…