BIOS scientists help with reality of new underwater video game
Researchers at the Bermuda Institute of Ocean Sciences have lent their experience to an upcoming video game intended to simulate piloting remote controlled submarines.
The September edition of the institute’s Currents newsletter said José González, a game designer, had reached out to Leocadio Blanco-Bercial, BIOS zooplankton ecologist, in early 2021 about his upcoming PC game “subROV: Underwater Discoveries”.
The game tasks players with operating a deep-ocean ROV on a number of dive missions with scientific objectives ranging from charting the sea floor to observing deep-sea squid.
Dr Blanco-Bercial provided Mr González with images, assisted him with scientific terminology and offered sea floor maps and ocean depth measurements to build out the backgrounds for the different missions.
“My role included helping to address questions related to the ocean, putting José in contact with the right people if those questions fell outside my field, and – very importantly – playing the game,” Dr Blanco-Bercial said.
“I played many of the first versions to see how well they reflected the reality of being underwater and on the deck of a research vessel, finding bugs in the game, and testing the playability of the game, or how easy, intuitive and fun it is.”
The researchers said that while it was important that the game was fun, they felt it could also be a useful platform to share the work of BIOS scientists, including their real findings into the game.
Amy Maas, a BIOS comparative physiologist and zooplankton ecologist, also saw the potential in the game to educate the public about marine research and included it in a research proposal to the US National Science Foundation.
“Part of the NSF proposal included classroom and web-based activities designed to improve ocean literacy and technological fluency among the public,” she said.
“I had been watching Leo beta test the video game and thought it could be a great resource for reaching different audiences than those we usually engage with.
“My thought was that if we could get gamers, whose goal is to have fun and not necessarily to be educated, to walk away from a dive knowing two things, then that is a major win.”
Dr Maas also suggested highlighting the Humboldt squid – also known as the jumbo squid – in the game, working with Mr González on a mission featuring the animals, along with midwater fish and gathering seawater oxygen data.
Mr González, through his company sqr3lab, released the demo version of subROV on Steam, an online PC gaming distribution platform, on June 8, with the full game expected to release by the end of next month.
He said: “I hope that oceanographic institutions and scientists will use it as a platform to showcase aspects of their research, and that people will use it to experience first-hand the mysteries and thrills of ocean exploration, which is what I myself want to do.”