Friday, August 12, 2011


Good day, Melodicans. It’s been a while. I’m sorry for the long absence, although some of you may already know the reason for it. Allow me to rewind a bit:

Back in March of this year, when many of us were just beginning to recover from GDC in San Francisco, a lively comment thread erupted here at Gamer Melodico in response to J.P. Grant’s astute observations of this year’s PAX East keynote speech. Much of the reaction in the thread was focused on the breaking Chain World fiasco. By definition, games are entertaining (at least, that is the initial intent), and well-designed game makes us want to keep playing. The concept of using such a mechanism to educate and affect social change for good is alluring.

However, as demonstrated by the controversy surrounding maneuvers to use Chain World for this purpose, it can be difficult to execute this concept. As one of the other people in the aforementioned comment thread happened to be my friend and neighbor, Willow Brugh, we decided to sit down for an hour or two at our local hackerspace and continue our discussion so as not to completely hijack the article’s feedback. Sorry, about that, J.P.!

After nearly 7 hours of whiteboard scrawling, drawing input from friends, and mass consumption of coffee, Willow and I came to some conclusions. The first and most obvious one was that in order for a “social change game” to be successful, it appeared necessary to find a way that would build upon antecedent gameplay mechanics, but would do so without altering them in such a way that they are no longer fun.

Ideally, such a game would also incorporate some aspect of education or training, so as to be sustainable in a way that a one-time fundraiser would not. We knew that this would depend heavily upon the specific problem being addressed, which drove us towards the field of disaster relief, particularly in light of the earthquakes in Japan and New Zealand that had just occurred.

Finally, it was decided that the most effective way of engaging participants in the project would be to gamify the participation process by making it a competition. Thus, GameSave was born.

Many weeks later, the judges have deliberated, the votes have been cast, and it appears we have a result. There is no better place for GameSave’s grand finale than Gamer Melodico. I am honored to be able to make our big announcement here, which I will do without further ado (because we've already had way more ado than we could have dreamed):

The winner of the first ever GameSave Concept Competition is CERTSim, submitted by a mighty team of one, Paul Cull!

Paul’s game concept allows the player to run through a number of actual disaster events, each composed of a series of scenarios designed to test the player’s knowledge of the standard Community Emergency Response Team skill set: Fire Suppression, Disaster Medical Operations, Light Search and Rescue, Team Operations, Disaster Psychology and Hazmat/Terrorism.

Paul wrote CERTSim in Visual Basic 2010 for the Windows platform, reaffirming the fact that PC gaming is still going strong. Congratulations, Paul!

Congratulations are also due to our fabulous runner-up, Team Seattle, for their RPG-inspired take on a Choose Your Own Adventure game! Said one judge of Team Seattle’s idea, “It communicates valuable information in a uniquely game-like way. It is quite ambitious, but if fully realized it could be a valuable tool in disaster-preparedness training.”

There aren’t quite the words the express how astounded and delighted we are with the participation from the teams and the response from the gaming and emergency management communities, not to mention the amazing support from friends, journalists, photographers, photojournalist friends, and especially to the volunteers who have made so much of this event possible. Particular thanks are due to the fine folks at Roar Engine for providing a development platform, and Tropo for helping us throw one kickass party.

It is often said that knowledge is power, and this statement is not inaccurate. It feels like the course of his competition has taken us around the world, but the truth is that for all the information learned and problem solving that’s occurred, barely a dent has been made. There are so many hardship-inducing things on this planet over which we as humans have no control that it puts in perspective some of the things over which we do. To entertain the idea, even for a moment, that some of these problems can be diminished even slightly by playing a game seems poetic somehow.

Of course, it may be that sleep deprivation has caused me to derive “poetic” from “cheesy.” This is entirely in the eye of the beholder.

And on that note, it is time to declare the first ever GameSave Concept Competition complete. Much love and gratitude to all who donated time, resources, money, emotional support and all the ingredients that went into making this happen. Until next time!
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