Game Review, by Super Searcher
Stop Disasters is a free-to-play online Sim City-style game designed to teach players about natural disasters and how we can protect against them. It’s very easy to start playing and has you prepare for five common natural disasters: tsunami, hurricane, wildfire, earthquake, and flood. The game was developed by Playerthree for the International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (ISDR). The game is delivered using Flash 7 via the web to allow access to as many people around the world as possible.
According to the game’s website, the core audience is 9-16 year old children, but even older teens and adults will enjoy the Stop Disasters game. I think it’s great for high school students, especially if they like Sim City. I got extra credit in my college class “Geologic Disasters and the Environment” for playing this game. Each of the five scenarios can be played on easy, medium or hard difficulty levels.
The player’s role is to plan and construct a safer environment. Players are given tasks and challenges (i.e. to think about what you can do to protect the people and their property in a tsunami), and given choices between different types of housing and effective upgrades. You must choose the best options, enabling you to save as many people as you possibly can. Players soon realize that even simple measures effectively applied can save many lives.
Whether you call it serious gaming or “edutainment,” there is a vast amount of knowledge to be gained from this game. And it’s provided in such a way that players aren’t bombarded with facts, but discover information bit by bit as they try to achieve their goals. While the game is interesting and challenging, it’s not so much “fun” that it lessens the gravity of the subject matter.
Each scenario takes between 15 and 30 minutes to play, depending on the disaster and your skill level. However, just like natural hazards in real life some elements are random. There is no “perfect solution” to each scenario and no “perfect score,” so every time you play things will be slightly different! You can play as many times as you like – the site keeps track of your highest scores and records them on the website. So even though it’s a single-player game, you can compete against other players around the world.
If you want to get extra credit in school, download this worksheet. There are questions to fill out before you start, Key Facts to identify as you play and find them, and questions to fill out after you are done. (But don’t worry if you don’t get all of the Key Facts, they’re pretty tricky to find and I still haven’t found them all.) Additional learning material for students and teachers is available in the “Information” section of the website: http://www.stopdisastersgame.org.