Hurricane preparedness through freeze tag? A new game could help the Gulf Coast prepare for upcoming hurricane season

Communities / Article

How is the Mississippi Gulf Coast preparing for the nine hurricanes projected for this season?

By playing a new game that combines freeze tag, capture the flag and hurricane preparedness tips – all in an effort to get people interested in readying their families and bringing the community together.

The Battlestorm tournament takes place on May 21, when teams of kids representing “The Town” will gather in the Biloxi High School Competition Gymnasium to face-off against members of the local Construction Battalion of the US Navy who represent “The Hurricane.” Players are coming from the Boys and Girls Clubs of the Gulf Coast. The game was designed and developed by Area/Code Entertainment in conjunction with the United Way, American Red Cross and funded by the Knight Foundation.

Here’s how it works: “The Town” needs to transport resources (balls) from one side of the court to the other while “The Hurricane” plays defense. Before the main event, supporters in the community can go online and participate to give teams an extra edge in the tournament. Players will earn special power “tokens” when community members post pictures online of hurricane preparedness kits that they have put together. The teams can then redeem those tokens for extra “safe zone” shelters on the court, bigger end zones, or other bonuses that give them an advantage.

Even though it’s designed to be fun, Area/Code and the Knight Foundation are hoping players and their families will walk away with what they need to know and do to prepare for the hurricane season that starts June 1.  To test that theory, the foundation is evaluating the game to see whether people are more informed after the game, whether they feel more confident about being able to prepare for storms and whether they take active steps to become more prepared.

A recent poll shows that despite Katrina’s destruction, Gulf Coast residents are not as prepared as they should be. The survey of nine states, including Mississippi, found that 36% of respondents have no family disaster plan and 45% do not have a hurricane survival kit. Knight is hoping to work with its partners to help move that needle.

Battlestorm is part of recent investments by Knight Foundation to apply game theory to real-world issues as an innovative way of tackling problems. Macon Money, also designed by Area/Code and funded by Knight, has already been voted one of the Top Five Social Impact Games of the Year in 2010 by Games for Change. For Macon Money, Area/Code partnered with the Knight-funded College Hill Alliance project to help build a greater sense of belonging among local residents by creating a new local currency to spend in neighborhood businesses. By playing the game residents connect with people they may never have connected to; they go to restaurants and businesses they may never have visited; and because the new currency is backed by the dollar, they are spurring local economic development in the meantime. Knight is also evaluating whether Macon Money impacts how residents think about what the College Hill Corridor has to offer and whether they form more diverse relationships over time.

In a follow-up post, we’ll take a closer look at what the foundation and its partners hope to learn and share in real-time from both games in the coming months.

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