Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Trapped in a Burning Building? Forget the Games. Grab the Gamer.

I bet he plays lots of Half-Life 2. Kiwi tech site Reseller News ran a story yesterday on a recent Fire Safety study conducted by the UK’s Durham University.

Dr. Shamus Smith of the University’s Computer Science department studied the source code of a number of popular first person shooters, looking for one that could easily be adapted into a fire safety simulation. Games examined included Far Cry, Quake III Arena, Doom 3, F.E.A.R., and Half-Life 2. They eventually settled on HL2’s Source Engine and recreated their building – adding fire, alarms, exit signs and so forth (video here). The study describes how people with gaming experience (familiarity with controls, etc.) fared better than those without. Duh. But just because I’m good at harnessing WASD to escape a Combine stronghold, doesn’t mean I can help you navigate flaming staircases in real life.

I’m not surprised they picked Source given the mod-friendly nature of the engine. This programming ease means they could quickly create a host of building-specific safety simulations without having to build an engine from the ground up. Thumbs up creative problem-solving!

You do have to wonder what it would look like if they’d used a different engine. Doom 3 – “Don’t open that door! There’s a flaming Martian ghost behind it!” F.E.A.R. – “I couldn’t find the fire extinguisher. But I did pick up this nifty nail gun!” Quake III - “Man, that fire just fragged me. Waiting to respawn…” The possibilities are endless.