In the recent moments where my gaze has lifted beyond my impending exams, one event looms large in May. I have been fortunate enough to receive a bursary to attend the 2011 Science Communication Conference, run by the British Science Association.
The whole two-day event promises to be interesting, but one session in particular has me keen. It’s titled “Using games to explain science, using science to create games”, which is a fusion of two of my favourite activities!
For those who don’t know, I’m a closet gamer. Not particularly deep in the closet: just mention games and I’ll probably get excited. I’ve always particularly enjoyed strategy and resource management games; from the old SimCity and SimAnt box set my parents got me as a kid, to Knights and Merchants, Age of Empires, the card game Magic the Gathering and more recently board games Settlers of Catan and Puerto Rico.
Some kind of complicated railway-building game I arrived too late to play...
I’ve also tried my hand at the BBC’s Climate Challenge game, a decision-making simulator in which you must balance political popularity, both regional and global, with carbon reduction targets and your economy. The game led to the recent, far more complex Fate of the World, which I haven’t had a chance to play yet but hope to before the conference.
It’ll be great to hear the thoughts of the people who are involved in the industry: like all spheres of science media, there needs to be a balance between something being entertaining and informative. With games, especially, it has to be a good game at its heart, otherwise there’s no point playing it. It’s possible to slog through a poorly written 500 words or 5 minutes of video if it is talking about an interesting idea, but no-one’s going to commit to 50 hours of gaming if it’s poorly designed. How can this be tied together with the potential for a far more in-depth, immersive and memorable scientific experience that games could offer?
I’ll find out in a month’s time, and no doubt you’ll hear my thoughts on it shortly afterwards!