Stop Disasters is a free-to-play online simulation game designed to teach players about natural disasters and how we can protect against them. It’s very easy to get started playing and has you prepare for five common natural disasters: tsunami, hurricane, earthquake, wildfire, and flood. The Sim City-style game was developed by Playerthree for the International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (ISDR), and is delivered using Flash 7 via the web to allow access to as many people around the world as possible.
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 are 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. While the game is interesting to play, it’s not so “fun” that it lessens the seriousness of the subject matter.
According to the game’s website, the core audience is 9-16 year old children, but even older teens and adults will enjoy the game. I think it’s great for high school students, and it would be an excellent diversion for urban planning and emergency management majors in college. It’s also a must-play game if you live in an area prone to one of these disasters, because there is a vast amount of knowledge to be gained – which is 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.
Each scenario takes between 15 and 30 minutes to play, depending on the disaster and your skill level. There are five scenarios to play, and each can be played on easy, medium or hard difficulty levels. 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 offer your students an extra credit assignment to go along with the game, 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, it’s pretty tricky to find them all.) Additional learning material for students and teachers is available in the “Information” section of the website: http://www.stopdisastersgame.org.