Getting serious about boat safety


5/20/2014 11:40:34 AM


Students of College of the North Atlantic’s Video Game Design program have come up with a fun, yet educational way spread the word about boat safety. The games were designed to be easily accessible to the public through the college’s website and played in an Internet Explorer web browser. From left are students Kelsey Power, Claire Robbins, instructor Janice Hertel and student Andrew Cutler.

As the snow melts and the weather warms up, people are preparing for the numerous activities that can only be enjoyed during the summer months. One of the most popular activities is boating.
 
In an effort to prepare boaters for the upcoming season, students of College of the North Atlantic’s (CNA) Video Game Design program have come up with a fun, yet educational way spread the word about boat safety.
 
When Video Game Design instructor Janice Hertel assigned the subject as this year’s project theme in the serious game design course that she teaches second year students, she hoped the games could have a positive impact.
 
“A serious game is a game made for purposes other than entertainment, such as education or conveying an important message,” said Hertel. “Each student in the course designed and developed an original mini-game. This collection of student games expresses the message of boating safety to the public through a variety of topics and game play styles.”
 
The games were designed to be easily accessible to the public through the CNA website and played in an Internet Explorer web browser. Claire Robbins developed a game called Smooth Sailing and feels the story is especially relevant to those of college and university age.
 
“The primary goal was to educate players on the requirements and merits of specific pieces of boating equipment, while testing them on their knowledge of the subject,” Robbins said.
 
“A game system was established that would add points to the player’s score as they chose items. At the end of the game the player is assessed, based upon that score, and may be ‘allowed’ or ‘disallowed’ to continue on their fishing trip because of it. Engaging the player is primarily accomplished through narration and character dialogue.”
 
Meanwhile, Kelsey Power designed ‘point and click’ style educational quizzes to teach players about safe and unsafe weather conditions for boating in her game Better Boating Weather. She says it provides a  happy medium where learning objectives are combined with engaging and immersive game play.
 
“Giving the players some rewards for doing well and keeping them updated on their progress can actually be fun for some players,” Power said. “I didn’t want the player to lose lives, or take damage. I wanted the player to know that they are learning, and when you learn you don’t always get the answer right.”
 
In an attempt to create an understanding in the player, the game also explains why answers are correct or incorrect.
 
Andrew Cutler created an arcade style game Wasted Tides, which deals with the serious issue of alcohol consumption while boating.
 
“Due to the serious and grave nature of boating while under the influence of alcohol it was of the utmost importance to my serious messages that the game be unwinnable,” Cutler said of his game.
 
“The behaviour of driving drunk cannot be reinforced in any way or the serious message will be lost. The player has no extra lives or health bar, no scoring, no bonuses, and no congratulatory messages. As in real life there are no second chances or do-overs, death is the end of the game.”
 
There were seven video games created for the project and Hertel says significant external research went into each game.

“Students also conducted many play testing sessions and collected valuable feedback which they applied iteratively to improve the effectiveness of the educational value and the game play throughout the process,” said Hertel.
 
To play the games visit www.cna.nl.ca/featured-links/video-game-design-games, or to watch the boating safety game videos visit www.youtube.com/user/CNAVideoGame.
 
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Media Contact:
 
Glenda McCarthy
Public Relations Specialist
College of the North Atlantic
709.643.6408
glenda.mccarthy@cna.nl.ca





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