I’ve never driven a racing car. Most people I know haven’t either. But we have all, at one time or another, sat behind the wheel of a simulator in an arcade that has given us the impression that we are participating in a high-speed racing event.
Unsurprisingly, simulators are also used by professional racing drivers. And the reason is pretty obvious: they can spend as many hours as they like behind the wheel of the simulator honing their skills before actually jumping into a real car and tearing around the racetrack.
Unlike the games simulators that one might find in an arcade, however, these simulators are much more sophisticated affairs. To provide drivers with an experience that is as close as possible to reality, the developers who build them spend hours carefully modelling the cars, developing complex algorithms that simulate the entire behaviour of the vehicle.
Some companies, such as Ferrari, even provide versions of their simulators for PC use. Needless to say, such clever marketing moves undoubtedly create a lot of interest for the cars and for motor sport in general, as well as providing the most inexperienced drivers among us with an insight into what it might be like to race one of their highly tuned machines around a racetrack.
But while it’s pretty obvious why such software might make an interesting Christmas present, the prospect of playing a game that has anything to do with climate change might seem a tad less thrilling. Despite the fact that we all participate in the warming of the planet, somehow the idea of a game based around that idea wouldn’t initially have the same appeal.
Now, however, Oxfordshire games company Red Redemption has taken the wraps off a game that might make us think again. Called Fate of the world, this game lets players explore the next two centuries, trying out geo-engineering, fusion power, wildlife adaptation and many other options to protect the climate while juggling the needs of an ever-growing world population, which is demanding increasing amounts of food, power and living space.
Interestingly enough, just as the folks in the race-car business attempt to model their environment as accurately as possible, so did the developers of this game, calling on the expertise of Oxford University climate change expert Dr Myles Allen, the project leader on ClimatePrediction.net, to provide realistic climate change models.
Allen hopes that, just as PC racing simulators have brought millions of people closer to the exciting world of motor sport, the climate change game might help the public get more intimately involved in the issues surrounding the environment.
But as fascinating as both the Ferrari and Red Redemption simulators are, I can’t help but feel that they are an opportunity for some clever engineer out there to develop a simulator that combines the benefits of both worlds – teaching drivers to negotiate the roads of the UK in the most fuel-economical way possible.
Then again, on second thoughts, I can’t think of anything that could be less appealing.
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