Alberta computer programmers and oil rig managers have teamed upto create a unique video game meant to improve safety on the job.
Simulynx, set for release in March, is an example of what's known as "serious gaming." The game trains new workers for potentially dangerous work on an oil rig.
"We visualize the day when learning is viewed not as a chore, as it has in the past, but as a form of entertainment," said Kevin McNulty of Edmonton's Terris-Hill Productions.
The company has teamed up the Concord Well Servicing in Valleyview, Alta., to make the game.
The oil patch companyhopes Simulynx gives new workers the fundamentals needed to make safe decisions.
For example, the video game teaches players that just pressing on a certain lever too long could mean heavy equipment falling on workers below.
The game's narrator tells the player: "No, you need to release the clutch control when the blocks are justbelow the tubing board. Try it again."
Learning by doing: prof
Jim Parker, a professor with the University of Calgary's computer science faculty, is convinced "serious gaming" will become more common.
"A serious game is a game whose value is in something other than entertainment," he said.
The "Gamer Generation," people under 37,learn better by doing something themselves rather than watching another person, Parker said.
"If I burn myself once or twice, even if it's in a virtual environment like a game, probably then I would remember that better."
There areother examples of learning games.
America's Army, a free online game, was developed by the Pentagon as a recruitment tool. Food Force, a game about how to dispense aid in war zones, was developed by theUnited Nationsas a teaching tool. It's been downloaded four million times.
Terris-Hill sees Simulynx as just the beginning.
The company expects to put together games for other branches of the oil industry and for the health-care business.