Feature: 'SGS 2005: Hazmat: Hotzone - First-Person First Responder Gaming'

In another of Gamasutra's main features for the day, as part of our week-long Serious Games Summit DC coverage, we prese...
In another of Gamasutra's main features for the day, as part of our week-long Serious Games Summit DC coverage, we present a write-up of Tuesday's lecture which twinned the academics and developers at Carnegie Mellon's Entertainment Technology Center with the trainers and firemen of the New York Fire Department, and was one of the best-attended of the entire Summit. Hazmat: Hotzone is a first-response 'serious game', and in this extract, project instigator Jesse Schell comments on the overall concept: "Schell then presented a basic overview of the project for those not aware. It has been in development for around three years, and is actually a "mod" of the Unreal Tournament game engine, specifically designed for training firefighters to handle hazardous material. This is an especially important problem since preparing for the threat of terrorist attacks using such material is something that the emergency services in North America place a high priority on. The particular focus of the scenario demonstrated was on a chlorine gas release in a New York subway station, but in general, Hazmat: Hotzone tries to answer the question of how computer-based training simulations can prepare for the unexpected with regard to fire department response to hazardous material. Previously, Schell pointed out by cuing a video overview of the product, those training firefighters would give a paper or PowerPoint-based lecture on the same material, but firefighters just don't relate as well to paper-based learning compared to this mod, which has small and repeatable scenarios, still involves the instructor to ask questions and do post-event analyses, and allows firefighters on multiple computers to talk and work together to solve problems. Although the product was initially developed in association with CMU's local fire departments, the New York Fire Department has taken it up in force, not least because it has particular need for training over possible hazardous materials and theoretical terrorist attacks. According to comments made on the video, FDNY also has a particularly apposite workforce in terms of age and experience, since 65% have been working for less than 6 years, meaning that most of those being trained are in their 20s and grew up with computers - thus, their computer familiarity can be converted into a potent learning force." You can now read the full Gamasutra feature on the subject, including much more information and descriptions of the FDNY's live demonstration of the tool (no registration required, please feel free to link to the article from external websites).

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