5 June 2023

Eden Marine High creating video game to spread vital bushfire message to youth

| James Day
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teacher with three school students at table

Eden Game Development Centre, the RFS and community mentors have joined forces to give Eden Marine High students the chance to help future generations prepare for bushfire emergencies. Photo: John Rix-Aldridge.

Over a 21-week program, 10 volunteer students from Eden Marine High have been creating a computer game designed to educate their generation on preparing for a bushfire disaster.

As part of the Eden Community Access Centre’s Disaster Preparedness Youth Group program, this effort has allowed the children to not only build skills in IT, coding and game design but also learn crucial information that could one day save the lives of their peers.

Over the past few years, the community has been pushed to the brink by bushfires and sees the youth as crucial in the effort to rebuild so they are ready to adapt to an ever-more violent and erratic environment.

READ MORE Surviving the fires: ‘You can’t defend against this. It’s bigger than any of us’.

Coordinator John Rix-Aldridge, who has been helping the students with the project, says they are about halfway through its development. During an initial six-week period of planning, they listened to a variety of experts’ workshops, helping them organise the information necessary for the game.

“We had experts like volunteer Group Officer for the Rural Fire Service, Peter Standen, come in and give an insight on their work, which didn’t just shock the kids but myself on the level of detail their preparations have,” John said.

“There’s also been a few kids who stood up and spoke on their experiences, which has been pretty amazing to see them share, given how obviously painful the memories are.”

man and three school students at table

John Rix-Aldridge helps the students through the planning stage of the video game’s development. Photo: John Rix-Aldridge.

At the start of the program, the children were split up into three teams: coding, creating and storytelling. The game is set to be a 2D storyline following a creature as it goes through three stages of a bushfire disaster: preparation, disaster, and community clean-up.

William Sharples is the local gaming developer helping the children create their vision, alongside John and several other community mentors, including Jacqui Wishart from Campbell Page, Bree Morgan from the Bega Valley Shire Council, and Carol Ahern, the ECAC Youth Support Officer for the Disaster Risk Reduction Youth-led Project.

At the end of the program, John says, there will be “a game launch event to be held in August, which will show the community every stage of its development so they can understand how much effort went in from all the children to bring it together”.

READ ALSO Eden Ablaze world premiere reflects on ancient world transformed by fire

The program received funding from the NSW Office of Regional Youth and the Foundation for Rural and Regional Renewal (FRRR) ABC Heywire Youth Innovation Grants Program.

John also thanked the University of Wollongong’s Bega Valley Campus and the Bega Valley Innovation Hub for helping to put the resources together for Eden Marine High to host the project.

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