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Using Video Games for Volcanic Hazard Education and Communication: An Assessment of The Method and Preliminary Results

This paper presents the findings from a study aimed at understanding whether video games (or serious games) can be effective in enhancing volcanic hazard education and communication. Using the eastern Caribbean island of St. Vincent, we have developed a video game – St. Vincent’s Volcano – for use in existing volcano education and outreach sessions. Its twin aims are to improve residents’ knowledge of potential future eruptive hazards (ash fall, pyroclastic flows and lahars) and to integrate traditional methods of education in a more interactive manner. Here, we discuss the process of game development including concept design through to the final implementation on St. Vincent. Preliminary results obtained from the final implementation (through pre- and post-test knowledge quizzes) for both student and adult participants provide indications that a video game of this style may be effective in improving a learner’s knowledge. Both groups of participants demonstrated a posttest increase in their knowledge quiz score of 9.3 % for adults and 8.3 % for students and, when plotted as learning gains, show similar overall improvements (0.11 for adults and 0.09 for students). These preliminary findings may provide a sound foundation for the increased integration of emerging technologies within traditional education sessions. This paper also shares some of the challenges and lessons learnt throughout the development and testing processes and provides recommendations for researchers looking to pursue a similar study.

 This paper will focus on how educational video games can be used as a tool for public outreach around raising awareness of volcano hazards with at-risk communities. It reflects a recent surge in the application of so-called “serious games” – video games with the primary purpose of education, not entertainment – for the purposes of learning and training, ranging from applications in medicine to military training and spanning everything from personal health to curriculum education. The paper considers the emergence of serious games in the realm of natural hazard education and critically examines their role for communicating volcanic hazards.

 The preliminary findings from this study suggest that serious games have the potential to be effective tools in volcano education for both traditional stakeholder groups (school students) and also for non-traditional stakeholders (adults). Serious games, therefore, would seem to be a promising communication and educational technique, but this novel approach faces a number of challenges. Nevertheless, the early indications from this study are that volcano-based computer games can increase uptake of hazard communication information.

 The St. Vincent’s Volcano serious game is an attempt to bridge the gap between these different intergenerational learning styles and also to overcome some of the problems commonly encountered in conventional volcanic hazard education (e.g. language barrier, varying educational backgrounds and the use of complex and difficult-to-understand maps and diagrams). Its twin aims are to improve knowledge of future potential volcanic hazards on St. Vincent and to integrate traditional methods of education in a more interactive manner. Although designed to support a pre-existing outreach volcanic hazard program, our data suggest that the game could also be effective for improving knowledge about volcanic hazards as a stand-alone tool.


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