Author: Kea Krause

Can a video game prepare us for the Big One?

Source(s): Portland Monthly


The idea for the game came because part of the challenge, according to Safran, is that when it comes to the Big One, we don’t have an earthquake problem, we have a people problem. She believes we are lacking the necessary “earthquake culture” that will minimize the impact of a large quake. “[This threat] should be woven into our everyday lives,” Safran says. “It should be in the things we read, the movies we watch, the games we play. Not just in the parts of our lives we want to avoid, but in the parts we want to enjoy.”

Indeed, playing Cascadia 9.0, which is an isometric 2-D adventure game with a top-down perspective, is fun—and surprisingly challenging. An individual player embarks on a four-level journey of survival after a devastating earthquake that knocks out power, crumbles buildings, and buckles roads. Each level features a different player character seeking to stay alive in the aftermath. Tips and clues pop up as you play and advise you to bolt your bookcase to a wall (or it will fall on you and you will die), turn off the gas to your house (or your house will explode and you will die), and move barrels to collect rainwater to drink (or you will—I will let you guess).


Another of the game’s primary objectives is encouraging communication with neighbors. As Safran explains, connecting with your community is essential. “Professional responders are going to be so busy and so overwhelmed with really high-magnitude stuff,” says Safran. “They’re not going to be in the neighborhoods, and so we’re going to have to help each other.”


 “The big challenge is in transfer,” says Colleen Macklin, a game maker and professor at New York’s Parsons School of Design. “If you read about [something] in a textbook, how well can you apply that to real life? The same goes for a video game. If you play it in a video game, how well are you able to apply that to real life?”



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Hazards Earthquake
Country and region United States of America
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