The blog of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation
Any parent of tweens and teens knows it’s tough to talk with them about important issues. This makes one of the results of the Knight-funded real-world social game, Battlestorm, even more surprising. The game results showcase the power of youth as catalysts for conversations about hurricane preparedness among families, friends and communities along the Gulf Coast, which is still struggling to heal from past disasters.
A combination of dodgeball and freeze tag, Battlestorm was played by members of the Boys and Girls Clubs in communities throughout the region. The game used preparedness-related terms, symbols and game mechanics to promote the importance of hurricane preparedness through activities focused on youth as leaders. For example, in the course of the game, the “Town” team transports resources (balls) from one side of the court to the other while “The Storm” team plays and “shelter” power tokens offer players safe haven on the court from Hurricane players.
An evaluation of the game found that as a result of being involved with Battlestorm, players started conversations with parents and friends about hurricanes.
For example, on the way home from an after-school program, a girl from the East Biloxi Unit told her father that she was playing a game about hurricanes called “Battlestorm.” This reminded her father that the family’s flood insurance needed to be updated.
Unexpectedly, the evaluation also found that the conversations were often cathartic for both youth and their parents — more than half of which were directly affected by Hurricane Katrina. The family conversations offered an opportunity for both parents and kids to process their experiences of Katrina in a unique and beneficial way.
During the game period, a boy who was severely traumatized by his experience during Hurricane Katrina told his mother about the Battlestorm game and its theme. For the first time, the family began to talk about the devastating effects of the 2005 storm. This player later took a leadership role in explaining some of the details of hurricane prep to his younger siblings.
As a result of playing Battlestorm, hundreds of Gulf Coast families assembled or received hurricane prep kits. And community partners such as the Boys and Girls Clubs and Save the Children are keen on replicating Battlestorm and holding future tournaments.
With each new hurricane season, community organizations in at-risk regions look for new ways to get residents engaged. By using innovative strategies like the Battlestorm game, engaging youth first can lead to more parents becoming engaged and getting their families more prepared.