Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Video Game Teaches About Bad Air Days, Decisions

Computer game students at the University of Utah have developed a tool to teach teens about the science and politics behind winter pollution.

Roger Altizer, who leads game design for the U’s Entertainment Arts and Engineering program, helped create the educational video game.

“Bad Air Day is a game for high school students where you play as the mayor,” he says. “You make policy decisions and personal decisions, and that has an effect on the air quality in Salt Lake City.”

“You then fly around Salt Lake trying to collect votes. If you made good decisions, the air will be clear. If you made bad decisions, you’ll see an inversion and a bunch of angry people, stopping those votes you need to remain mayor.”

The game focuses on decisions, not the weather conditions and geography that make Utah winter pollution spikes so bad.

Student James Hulse helped create the game. He says high-schoolers who tested early versions asked for more action.

“It was really interesting to get that feedback and try and find something that you’d get the majority of the kids thinking, ‘Okay, this is fun, we like playing this. We want to learn from this’.”

Developers plan to expand the Bad Air Day game and create a lesson plan for teachers.

Judy Fahys has reported in Utah for two decades, covering politics, government and business before taking on environmental issues. She loves covering Utah, where petroleum-pipeline spills, the nation’s radioactive legacy and other types of pollution provide endless fodder for stories. Previously, she worked for the Salt Lake Tribune in Utah, and reported on the nation’s capital for States News Service and the Scripps League newspaper chain. She is a longtime member of the Society of Environmental Journalists and Investigative Reporters and Editors. She also spent an academic year as a research fellow in the Knight Science Journalism program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In her spare time, she enjoys being out in the environment, especially hiking, gardening and watercolor painting.
KUER is listener-supported public radio. Support this work by making a donation today.