Using Gamification to Teach Safety and Disaster Preparedness – And Kill Some Zombies

By: Jade Durkee

So the BIG ONE, that fabled earthquake that will rip California from the rest of the country and set it adrift, is supposed to happen any time now. Actually, Earth is toast by 2012, according to some dubious Mayan calculations and director Roland Emmerich. Well, that's craptastic.

What would you do? Survival on a primitive level may not be an instinctive thing for us San Franciscans.  So, maybe it's better to put the question a different way: What would you do if you emerged from the MUNI tunnel and encountered a horde of shambling, blood sucking, hipster zombies? No, not the sort that want to pick your brains about the underground Stereolab albums from 1999...these guys actually want to EAT your brains. What do you do?

[Want to stay informed about what's happening in San Francisco? Sign up for the Reset SF Newsletter.]

Well, if you were me or any of my'd be up a creek without a paddle. This is why the lovely company that employs me, The Go Game, came up with a game that really hit home with the 70 people who participated.  My colleague Jenny Gottstein realized that most of us urban dwellers wouldn't know what to do if all of our smart phones, iPads, and Tom Toms failed to work....and thus she created the Zombie Adventure game of 2011.

Games have been used as teaching methods for a LONG time (I personally know all I need to know about real estate because of Monopoly), and are wonderful for conveying information in a playful way, as well as encouraging players to engage in and adopt certain actions.  The technical term is "Gamification" and it's definitely one of the buzz words of the new decade. Anyone who's ever used "Foursquare" has participated in this activity, probably without realizing it.  In this case, we used our original urban adventure game concept and turned it on its ear by adding stations where players could learn about the best way to circumvent blood loss, the easiest way to start a fire without matches, and how to gut the fish that you managed to pull out of the bay.  Players earned points for the mastery of these “missions”, and a winning team was crowned at the end of the game. We had lots of zombies (read ACTORS) shambling about to give a sense of atmosphere and fun, and threw in a Thriller flash mob for good measure. However, the central goal of our game was for all the players to learn basic survival concepts.  And they did!

Use Gamification for DYI Safety and Disaster Preparedness

This is something you can do at home! When informing your friends and family about the importance of preparing for the BIG ONE, turn it into a game! Go to the grocery store with your family and make it a race to find the 5 items that would be most useful in a disaster. When they return, use those items to illustrate what you truly need in a disaster. Look to NERT as your guide.  Also, find the places in your home that would be the most stable during an earthquake, and place stickers on them. Sometimes in the midst of a crisis, a visual reminder is necessary. Another way to make the preparation for the END OF DAYS fun is to create a home-made disaster kit.  Sometimes you just need the comfort of Chef Boyardee ravioli on a cold apocalypse ridden night. Seriously, though. Find the products that you and your family will really need and place them in a sturdy container in your house.

But what if the Big One happens when I'm en route? Well, NERT recommends that you have a teeny tiny survival kit with you at all times. This is the kit that will get you back to where your main supplies are housed Most of these items (a pair of comfortable shoes, money, ID) are just the basics of urban survival, and may already be found in your massive messenger bag.

Disaster may not be a game; it doesn't mean that preparation for one can't be!  A little brevity might be just the thing to motivate us all into become responsible, well-prepared urban dwellers.   Oh, and FYI, the best way to kill a zombie is to destroy its head.  Just saying, is all.

Sign up for our weekly newsletter and join the conversation on Facebook.


Phil Ting's picture

Games are a great way to learn

My daughter is learning her alphabet through games.  Why not have adults play Sim City or other games to figure out how to make San Francisco better.  When I stopped by Summer of Smart last weekend, one of the hackers was coming up with a recycling/sustainable way of life game.  Very cool - trying to find it on their website to see how the project turned out!

Bernadette's picture

Gamification for Improving Any and All Aspects of the City

The best thing about gamification is that it makes learning and improving yourself, your community, your city, and your world FUN!
This connects back to the Jane McGonigal video in a previous gamification overview. We have so much brainpower that could be used to improve our cities if it is harnessed in an effective way. By making improving our city and helping each other something that can be fun (and sometimes competitive), we can really get the ball rolling!

Victoria Holliday's picture

Earthquakes and Zombies

Living in SF can be dangerous and scary - but the best way to prepare is by arming yourself with the knowledge you need to survive. Knowing how to tie a tourniquet, and start a fire are real practicale skills. Teaching them in a fun user friendly way makes learning these skills even more enjoyable. Props to the GoGame for making this happen. I hope they keep doing events like this in SF!

Paid for by Phil Ting for Assembly 2012. FPPC ID# 1343137