As part of the trip to the USA to meet distributors (more on that soon!) and promote the upcoming beta of Fate of the World I was invited to visit the lovely city of Asheville in North Carolina by NOAA, the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (www.climate.gov). My trip was sponsored by Mack Pearsall, who in many ways is the patron of the town of Asheville and committed to creating a sustainable community there.
So why was I there? Well Marjorie from the National Climatic Data Center at NOAA learned of our work on BBC Climate Challenge and Fate of the World, and in particular our scientific collaborations and research based on the games. She became very interested in the work we are doing bringing climate science into computer games; with our collaboration with Games for Change (www.gamesforchange.org) who promote the use of games to tackle the most pressing issues of the day, and from our side the data NOAA and NASA make publically available has been incredibly useful in developing Fate of the World. Our team would love to highlight the excellent work they do and so I was keen to visit and discuss possible collaborations. NOAA was particularly impressed that Games for Change and the MacArthur Foundation are part of a Presidential initiative on using computer games to improve STEM learning (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths).
For those of you not familiar with their work by name, NOAA is the sister organisation of NASA and the two work very closely together in a number of fields. NOAA's area of expertise covers the oceans, and climate and meterological data. I've always had a soft spot for the organisation because of my love of submarines, but as I discovered on this trip their work encompasses so much more.
I had a packed day of events. In the morning I demonstrated Fate of the World to a select group from the gaming industry, scientists, eco-literacy education, program development and media arts and in turn saw an amazing example of the work carried out by David, Hillary, Clayton and the rest of Eluminati Studios (http://www.elumenati.com/) in one of their Geodomes. In their demo David took us from a beautiful representation of the Earth all the way out to the edge of the universe. Excitingly Eluminati also work with the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), part of NASA, on interactive simulations on climate change. They were a great team and hopefully we can find some ways to collaborate in the future. Overall this part of the day made me realise how much exciting work gets carried out on both sides of the Atlantic, but how so little of it gets communicated across that same ocean!
Following a brief lunch I was privileged to be invited to tour the facilities of the NOAA Climatic Data Center (NCDC) in Asheville - I was introduced to many of the scientists and administrators (a number of whom are Nobel Peace Prize co-awardees for their work in climate science) based there and we had a lively afternoon of discussing Fate of the World, the work of NOAA and challenges we both face in what we do. Essentially the role of the NCDC is to gather and collate the latest data on the state of the climate both in the short term (meteorological) and in the long term (climate change) and then make that data accessible and as widely available as possible. Their work is a vital piece of the puzzle when it comes to understanding our changing environment and the impact mankind has on it. It was really exciting to discuss Fate of the World with them and get their thoughts, ideas and immediate feedback and the team at NCDC were very generous with their time and in particular I have to thank Scott Hausman, the Director of the NCDC and Otis Brown Director of the Cooperative Research Institute as both of their schedules were incredibly busy. I'm pleased to say Fate of the World gained many new beta testers from NOAA.
The day was brought to a lovely dinner at the Grove Park Inn (which was sponsored by Asheville Buncombe Sustainable Community Initiatives, Inc), a magnificent mansion set in the Appalachian mountains and we have a great open forum event with representatives of the town, business, NOAA, the games industry and educators getting a chance to talk about next steps.
I took away from the trip a greater understanding of the importance of the work carried out by NOAA and the NCDC, but also how switched on they are to the potential of social impact games in communicating some of the more difficult elements about climate. I would love to work with Games For Change to organise a Games for Science summit there in 2011. I also got a great respect for the townsfolk and businesses of Asheville. It is a beautiful town set in the stunning Appalachian mountains, and is working hard to become a hub of sustainability. I look forward to seeing what emerges from the trip.
Useful links: NOAA climate http://www.climate.gov/#climateWatch
Otis Brown research arm of NOAA's NCDC http://cicsnc.org/
NOAA NCDC's data http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/oa/ncdc.html
- Gobion Rowlands, October 11th 2010