Virtual field experiences in a web-based video game environment: open-ended examples of existing and fictional field sites

Mattathias D. Needle, Juliet G. Crider, Jacky Mooc, John F. Akers
2022 Geoscience Communication  
Abstract. We present two original, video-game-style field geology experiences designed to allow flexible, open-ended exploration for geologic mapping and structural geology. One simulation features the Whaleback anticline, a site in central Pennsylvania (USA), with a three-dimensional exposure of a 30 m high fold, based on a terrain model that was acquired through structure-from-motion photogrammetry. The second example is a fictional location with simplified geology, which was built with
more » ... l modeling software and inspired by the geology of northwestern Washington. Users move through the terrain, as if in the field, selecting where to make observations of the geologic structure. Additionally, these virtual field experiences provide novel visualization opportunities through tools like a geodetic compass that instantly plots data to a stereonet and a jetpack simulation, which allows the user to interrogate geologic surfaces in hard-to-reach locations. We designed the virtual field experiences in a widely used video-game-creation software and published the field simulations for access via the internet and common web browsers so that no special hardware or software is required to play. We implemented these field simulations to partially replace field and lab exercises in two different courses offered remotely through the University of Washington Department of Earth and Space Sciences, with assignments that address many of the learning goals of traditional in-person exercises. Because the virtual field experiences are open-ended, other instructors can design different exercises to meet different learning goals. While this game environment currently serves as an enhancement to remote education, this format can also augment traditional educational experiences, overcoming several challenges to accessing the field or particular outcrops and, thereby, broadening opportunities for participation and scientific collaboration.
doi:10.5194/gc-5-251-2022 fatcat:tviflvxosfab7ks5jtdgvp74ka