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Geoscience Communication An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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https://doi.org/10.5194/gc-2020-39
© Author(s) 2020. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
https://doi.org/10.5194/gc-2020-39
© Author(s) 2020. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

  05 Oct 2020

05 Oct 2020

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This preprint is currently under review for the journal GC.

Volcanoes in video games: The portrayal of volcanoes in Commercial-Off-The-Shelf (COTS) video games and their learning potential

Edward George McGowan1 and Jazmin Paris Scarlett2,a Edward George McGowan and Jazmin Paris Scarlett
  • 1School of Geography, Geology and the Environment, University of Leicester, Leicester, LE1 7RH, Leicestershire, UK
  • 2independent researcher
  • aformerly at: School of Geography, Politics and Sociology, Newcastle University, Newcastle Upon Tyne, NE1 7RU, Northumberland, UK

Abstract. Volcanoes are a very common staple in mainstream video games. Particularly within the action/adventure genres, entire missions (e.g. Monster Hunter: Generation Ultimate) or even full storylines (e.g. Spyro: The Reignited Trilogy) can require players to traverse an active volcano. With modern advancements in video game capabilities and graphics, many of these volcanic regions contain a lot of detail. Most video games nowadays have gameplay times in excess of 50 hours. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild for example brags a minimum of 60 hours to complete. Therefore, players can spend a substantial amount of time immersed within the detailed graphics, and unknowingly learn about volcanic traits while playing. If these details are factually accurate to what is observed in real world volcanic systems, then video games can prove to be a powerful learning tool. However, inaccurate representations could instil a false understanding in thousands of players worldwide. Therefore, it is important to assess the accuracies of volcanology portrayed in mainstream video games and consider whether they can have an educational impact on the general public playing such games. Or, whether these volcanic details are overlooked by players as they focus solely on the entertainment factor provided. We have therefore reviewed several popular commercial video games that contain volcanic aspects and evaluated how realistic said aspects are when compared to real-world examples. It was found that all the games reviewed had a combination of accurate and inaccurate volcanic features and each would vary from game to game. The visual aesthetics of these features are usually very realistic, including lava, ash-fall and lahars. However, the inaccuracies or lack of representation of hazards that come with such features, such as ash-related breathing problems or severe burns from contact with molten lava, could have great negative impacts on a player's understanding of these deadly events. With further investigations assessing the direct impact on the general public, there is the opportunity to correctly assess how to incorporate the use of mainstream video games in educational systems and outreach.

Edward George McGowan and Jazmin Paris Scarlett

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Status: open (until 30 Nov 2020)
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Edward George McGowan and Jazmin Paris Scarlett

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Supplemental video of the paper "The portrayal of volcanoes in Commercial-Off-The-Shelf (COTS) video games and their learning potential." Edward G. McGowan and Jazmin P. Scarlett https://doi.org/10.5446/48881

Edward George McGowan and Jazmin Paris Scarlett

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Short summary
Results from reviewing 15 popular video games demonstrate a combination of accuracies and inaccuracies that could impact on people’s self-learning of volcanoes. Several volcanic features are represented to varying degrees of accuracy: stratovolcanoes and calderas, lava flows, volcanic ash and lava bombs. Whereas health risks are often inaccurate. The least featured are pyroclastic density currents and volcanic gas emissions. Application of the findings from this paper will feed into an expanded.
Results from reviewing 15 popular video games demonstrate a combination of accuracies and...
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