We need some games for amateur radio

About a month ago, I was driving early on a Saturday morning, and heard a TED talk, “Gaming can make a better world,” by a woman named Jane McGonigal. She is a game designer, and she thinks that if we can somehow harness the energy that gamers put into computer games, we can solve all kinds of world problems. Now, that may be arguable, but what isn’t arguable is that computer games can be powerful motivators.

So, what does this have to do with amateur radio? Well, I think we need some amateur radio games. These games could be used to help people learn what they need to know to get their licenses. There might also be some games that teach people how to send and receive Morse Code. Remember, games are great motivators.

I developed an amateur radio game—Tech Pursuit—several years ago. I made up some question cards that could be used with a Trivial Pursuit board and markers. I tried using this with a middle school class that I was working with at the time, but it wasn’t a huge success. For one thing, the game Trivial Pursuit isn’t really aimed at kids. Whatever the reason, I decided not to update the question cards when Tech question pool was updated two years ago.

So, what do you think? Do you think a ham radio game could get more people interested in amateur radio? Could a game motivate people to get their amateur radio licenses? Could we use games to teach amateur radio skills?

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  1. I saw Jane give a similar speech last month in Seattle. The focus of her speech there was how to use games for social good. The audience was from the non-profit world and they seemed receptive to the idea that games can teach and motivate people to do things, like donate money, volunteer, or see things from a different perspective.

    I think that the same could apply to amateur radio and I’m glad you brought it up. I can imagine a virtual DXpedition game, giving someone the chance to be on the receiving end of a pileup. Or maybe a repeater etiquette game. Or HF net protocol game. Emergency comms. Etc., etc.

    And given the fact that so many hams are already gamers, programmers and technically adept, I think the nature of a game becoming a tool would be an easy fit.

  2. Bob - W2TAC says:

    How about a real game — hunting down low-lifers who jam, cause willful interference and such?

    • @Bob: While that is certainly a worthwhile pursuit, it’s not exactly what I was trying to get at here.

      @Kevin: Great ideas! I need to learn about how to develop games.

  3. That is a great idea and it’s such an innovative but very simple way to make ham radio attractive through game or gaming for that matter. These days there are games on your cell phone, gaming consoles galore and app games as well. Excellent idea!!!

  4. Dave, N8SBE says:

    I’ve heard of contest simulators (for CW and maybe digital modes?) that help you learn how to pull call signs out of simulated pileups, etc. The real trick would be to make that work somehow as well with voice modes. Then not only contest simulations, but emergency communications, roundtables, traffic nets, etc. all become “off-line” teachable, to a whole new generation of ‘no-code’ would-be and current hams. With Google Voice and Siri (although still a bit lame) moving quickly into pretty good voice recognition, the enabling technologies are quickly falling into place.

  5. There is a series of articles in the National Contest Journal by Brooke Allen, N2BA, that is called “Game Design For Contesters.” Part 1 is on the NCJ web site, but he’s up to Part 3 in the most recent issue. This has been a passion of his since at least early 2011 when he posted something about it to CQ-Contest. All very interesting…

  6. This is a great idea, we need a way to get young people excited about ham radio. Whether it’s a game, or maybe some animated shows that teach amateur radio.

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