By Lars Olsen
Alert! Alert! A hurricane warning has just been issued for your area. What do you do?! Severe weather events are scary for people of all ages, especially if they aren’t prepared. This is why PLAN!T NOW partnered with NOAA, NEA and the National Weather Service to present the Young Meteorologist Program (YMP), a “Severe Weather Preparedness Adventure!” This game provides a less-threatening method to learn about extreme weather and how to stay safe. There is growing evidence that climate change has been increasing the frequency and intensity of severe weather (especially hurricanes and winter storms), so now more than ever it is important for people of all ages to know what to do in case of a disaster.
This is a roll-and-move type video game which takes you through challenges based on five types of severe weather: hurricanes, lightning, floods, tornadoes, and winter storms. With a “bird’s-eye-view” of the game board, you play as Owlie, a talking screech owl. You are guided through the challenges with help from three senior meteorologists — one of which is a condor named Gird. Each roll takes you to a tile with a scripted event or mini game. Owlie learns about emergency protocols and procedures through quick games and tips in each challenge. These games include word searches, memory games, point & click games, and more. Most are relatively easy, but they help to keep the player entertained throughout the program. Completing these various tasks earns you a “Young Meteorologist Certificate.” Personally, I will be framing mine for my bedroom.
This game has enormous educational potential by providing the player with specific information for each type of severe weather. For example, the time of year and regions hurricanes are most likely to occur in, how to avoid lightning, where to go in case of a flood, etc. For a game that takes less than an hour to complete, it packs in a remarkable amount of information. By sparking discussions, this knowledge has the potential to make families more equipped for emergencies. Traditional methods for preparing for severe weather can often be intimidating to children, and video games offer a more-accessible education.
While the game is educational and entertaining, it has several limitations. The mini games are brief and much of the time is spent listening to the scientists address severe weather. The main game, including the dice rolls, are scripted which creates a lack in competitiveness and unpredictability. For this reason, I would recommend the game more for younger children.
The scientific material provided by the YMP is quite thorough in ensuring people stay safe from weather. The game explores the underlying causes for severe weather in addition to emergency procedures. Complex topics like pressure systems are often explained first with a high-level vocabulary by one scientist before the others help a younger audience to understand.
The YMP is a fun and safe way for kids to learn about the dangers posed by severe weather. It also provides them with the tools to ensure their safety and feel in control during emergencies. Although it is more of a tutorial than a standard video game, I believe it is the best way to teach kids about something so significant.
Gameplay/Fun: ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
Educational: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★
Scientific Rigor: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
Accessibility: Ages 6-13
Platform: Web browser