Games, Games, Games at #EGU19

(Cover photo by Rolf Hut)

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.

One of those science sessions was our Games for Geoscience session, convened by myself (Chris Skinner), Sam Illingworth, Rolf Hut, Liz Lewis, and Jaz Scarlett. After the success of the first one in 2018 we were worried about the ‘difficult second album’ syndrome but our fears were unfounded as this year’s session was even bigger and even better.

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.

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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.

(Photos by Josh Ahmed and Sam Illingworth)

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.

(Photos by Annie Ockelford, Chris Skinner, Rolf Hut, and Sam Illingworth)

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!

(Photos by Simon Dixon and Sam Illingworth)

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: Volcano game, 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.

Chris

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 –

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EGU Games Night 2019 - Call for Water

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International Geoscience Games Day 2019 at #EGU19 @EuroGeosciences

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.

Wednesday 10th April

14:00-16:00Games for Geoscience PostersHall X4

16:15-18:00Games for Geoscience OralsRoom L8

18:00-20:00Geoscience Games NightFoyer D

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!
Confirmed games so far include –
  • Flash Flood! Vol.2 – VR flood simulation
  • HEAT – Card game for communicating climate change
  • Breath of the Wild – AAA Zelda game with stunning landscapes to explore
  • Resilience – Prototype flood defence card game
  • Druids & Defences – Flood themed Dungeons & Dragons
  • Wanted: Head of the Centre for Flood Forecasts – The IMPREX Serious Game
  • Rivers Top Trump – Official Top Trumps game with a rivery twist
  • The Drift Game – Where do things come from? Where do they drift?
  • 509,084 drops in 114 days – Discover rainfall features and collect maximum drops
  • Call for Water – A serious game on the role of forecast uncertainty and reliability in
    risk-based decision-making
  • Hazagora: will you survive the next disaster? – Building a resilient community in a natural hazards prone area

If you would like you game adding to the list, please email Chris Skinner (c dot skinner at hull dot ac dot uk).

Check out our 360 tour of last year’s Games Night to see what to expect. See you in Vienna!

Resilience – Development of a Card Game

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.

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.

Building the Picade – A Raspberry Pi Powered Arcade Machine

By Chris Skinner

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.

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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.

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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…

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.

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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.

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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