If your state agency is looking to up its cool factor, you can’t go wrong with developing your very own video game.
To demonstrate the unique opportunities and benefits of proposed FirstNet technologies, OhioFirst.net — the Buckeye state’s agency dedicated to ensuring the “successful deployment of a mission-critical cellular network for public safety in Ohio”— developed a first-person Windows PC game called “Next Generation FireFighter.”
Relying on the power of show versus tell, the game immerses users in a virtual fire scenario, both with and without FirstNet technologies. In the scenario with FirstNet technologies, the player has access to things such as integrated blueprints, real-time mapping and thermal imaging.
The agency actually drew inspiration for the game outside the usual sources.
“The idea came to me as I was trying to think of a way, beyond power points and lectures, of giving the audience a simulated experience with the benefits of the network. My son grew up playing video games, and I thought, ‘Wow, that could be cool,’” says OhioFirst.Net Program Manager Kelly Castle.
While the idea of creating a video game is one thing, actually pulling it off is another. One of the first hurdles Castle faced in getting the game developed was convincing her boss that it was a worthwhile investment of resources and time.
“The hardest part was convincing my boss, Darryl Anderson, who just retired after 50 years in law enforcement, that this was a great idea. He laughed and finally capitulated,” says Castle. “Now, he wishes it had been his idea!”
The Makings of a FirstNet Game
Finding the talent to create a video game was the next step. Luckily for Castle and the OhioFirst.Net team, they had a video game hobbyist among them.
Working with Brandon Abley from the consulting firm Televate, Castle was able to craft a game that delivered on the agency’s basic objectives. But it required some research to achieve what they wanted.
“We picked fire since that’s not controversial. We visited firehouses and learned how they work and what could help them to make the game authentic,” she says. “Brandon really is the brains, I just came up with the concept and sold it.”
So far, the response to the game, which debuted at the Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials (APCO) Broadband Summit in Washington, D.C., last month, has been overwhelmingly positive, says Castle. She and Abley are already brainstorming sequels and enhancements to the game and will likely get more feedback from the APCO annual conference this August in Orlando, Fla., where the game will be on display.
“We'll have the game available at the Televate booth at the APCO annual conference so that people can try it with a joystick or perhaps even a headset like HoloLens or Google Glass,” says Castle. “Next perhaps will be Next Gen Paramedic or Next Gen SWAT Commander.”
If you’re interested in playing the game, you can download “Next Generation FireFighter” from the agency’s website and check out a demo video below.