Earthquakes in Springtime

Salvete Omnes,

In our previous strategy meeting, we settled on an idea for our first Decision-Making Game: a natural disaster in a politically tumultuous region. We have now settled on some of the specifics.

An Earthquake of magnitude between 7 and 7.5 on the Richter scale on the Turkey-Syrian border in early 2012. This would work as an interesting simulation for a number of reasons: first, the region was (and is) suffering from a drought (the worst in 900 years, actually); second, this was during the Arab Spring and the beginning of the Syrian Civil War; third, the location and strength of the earthquake would likely trigger a tsunami in the Mediterranean, impacting Cyprus and the west coast of the Arabian Peninsula and possibly North Africa.

Depending on the response, this might altered the rise of ISIS and it might have cause the unprecedented humanitarian crisis to happen a few years sooner.

For the sake of modelling, I will say that the earthquake happens at 00:00 on March 1st 2012 at 36.36256 degrees north by 36.10746 degrees east and is of magnitude 7.5. These numbers may change, but they should be roughly right.

Now we must build a model of the scenario and the main research questions I am considering now are:

  • Which actors will be immediately impacted and what will their reactions be?
  • What in the infrastructure like in the affected region (say, 200 km surrounding the epicenter)? Is it designed to handle earthquakes?
  • How large and frequent are aftershocks likely to be? Is a tsunami likely (the East Anatolia fault is strike-slip, so maybe not)?
  • How are global actors with local interests (US, Russia, some European powers probably) likely to respond? How will the UN respond? What about aid organizations and NGOs?
  • What are the likely economic outcomes? How will oil and food production be changed?
  • How might this shift the political balance? What parties might find themselves in an advantageous position and how would they leverage that position?
  • What is likely to happen to the people living in affected regions? Specifically, how widespread will be lack of power, water, food, and medical care be?

These look like a good jumping-off point for model construction. Hopefully if we can answer them we will have what we need to construct a probabilistic simulation which can then be run to see which actions are likely to have the best outcomes.

What are you waiting for? Google is just a click away!

Thoughts on the Game Jam

So last week’s 3 day game hackathon was quite fun! Even though our final result didn’t quite match our initial expectations, this in itself was to be expected. In review, I just wanted to leave some thoughts on how it went and what we might want to consider for future hackathons.

1. We certainly suffered from Hofstadter’s Law! (No surprise here.)

2. From the technical side of things, I believe our biggest issue was really just the engine we were trying to use. We hadn’t ever really used it before, and some of the…er….interesting….design decisions they went (such as profane variable names and error messages…and their abuse of the word “scene”…) caused the majority of our initial time to be spent frustratedly fighting the engine tooth and nail to try and get it to do what we needed. (Retrospective kudos to Ed for having tried to convince us to use Game Maker instead!)

3. Kudos to Chris for letting us work at his house for a good 6 hours longer than he was expecting on our second day!

4. Kudos to everyone for their delicious food contributions!

5. I think the overall design ideas we had for the game were excellent. It has the makings for a good (and very unique) game, and I think if we continue to periodically work on it, it’s gonna be pretty cool!

I think the biggest thing we should consider for next time is that it’s really important for the developers to already know the tools we’ll be using. I have sufficiently discovered that attempting to correctly learn and utilize an entire engine within 3 days is not feasible! This doesn’t mean we should already have content ideas going into the hackathon, but we should really determine potential tools to use beforehand (and learn them if they’re new), and then when we come up with ideas at the start, they can be filtered to what we can do using the tools that we know.

Happy new year’s everyone!