By Kerry Kelly
Editor’s Note: April is Earth Month at DEQ. We’ve invited guest bloggers to share their thoughts on the ways individuals, businesses, governments, and universities can contribute to making our world a little greener.
Even though I am not a gamer, I recently worked on developing an air-quality video game with a team of University of Utah student video-game developers, the Utah Department of Environmental Quality’s Air Quality division (DAQ), Breathe Utah, Utah Clean Air Partnership (UCAIR), the Utah Department of Health, the Utah Education Network, and students from the Academy for Math, Engineering & Sciences (AMES) high school.
The web-based game targets teens and introduces them to the factors that create the Wasatch Front’s poor wintertime air quality. It looks and plays like a 3D flying game, but it allows players to test choices that individuals and organizations can make to improve our air. The game is based on sound science: it links each choice to a quantifiable change in emissions.
I believe that air quality will remain a challenge for the Wasatch Front, and educating the next generation of decision makers is critical to meeting this long-term challenge. My hope is to inspire curiosity about air quality in an entertaining learning environment.
In the game, you, as the mayor of Salt Lake City, face two challenges: to collect votes and to influence air quality. If your choices result in good air quality, you’ll have great visibility and be able to collect votes quickly, but if your choices result in poor air quality, you’ll see visible pollution and collect votes more slowly. There’s a catch, though — if you make unpopular decisions, like banning all driving, you’ll face walls of public outrage that slow your ability to collect votes.
BadAirDay: Play It Like UCAIR was released in January. So far, it has been played thousands of times online, and Breath Utah is currently visiting high-school and middle-school classrooms with the game and accompanying lessons.
We are grateful for UCAIR’s support for the student game developers and for the efforts of our partners. I hope that you’ll have as much fun playing the game as the team had developing it.
If you’d like to download the game or schedule a classroom visit, visit BadAirDay.org. Our website has downloads for both Windows and Macs along with suggested school curricula for teachers who want to use the Bad Air Day game in their classroom.
I am a Research Assistant Professor in Chemical Engineering and Associate Director of the Program for Air Quality, Health, and Society at the University of Utah. I also serve as vice-chair of the Air Quality Board. In my spare time, I recently completed my PhD. In the rest of my spare time, I enjoy hiking, mountain biking, and whitewater rafting, and last year I had the chance to row the Grand Canyon, a lifelong dream.