University of Calgary Fine Arts professor Dr. James (Jim) Parker connects Computer Sciences with Fine Arts and brings the components of theatre to video gaming with his creation of Booze Cruise, “a driving game with a serious drinking problem.”
The idea behind the product is simple: To create an innovative video game with a message that could be as playable at as many locations as possible. The project comes as a result of a course Parker teaches on serious games; that is, games created for more than entertainment purposes. Along with two interdisciplinary grad students and two undergraduate students from the Department of Computer Science and the Faculty of Fine Arts, Parker recognized that his class was full of diverse talent and interests. Together, they decided they wanted to create a game that would tackle the problem of drinking and driving. With that, Booze Cruise came to be.
“I was certainly excited to work with such talented Fine Arts people during the creation of Booze Cruise. The enthusiasm and vision of Lori (Shyba) and Nooshin (Esmaeili) propelled the game into new imaginative realms.” says, Computer Science student John Heerema. “The dedication and talent that Nathan (Sorenson) brought to the project took it beyond the conceptual stages, and up to the level that you see today.”
The game requires the player to drive a car through a course – the difficulty lies in that the game simulates the player being under the influence of alcohol. Vision is blurred, reflexes are delayed and reality is skewed. It gives the player an idea of what it feels like to drink and drive without actually being in that situation. Parker believes video games represent the height of interactive learning and hopes the game will play a role in improving statistics on drinking and driving.
“Gaming technology can help people as well as entertain,” Parker said. “People get to interact, which changes how they feel about what they’re doing.”
Booze Cruise, with all original art, music and design is currently being judged in the second round of the Future Play Game Contest in Toronto. The Calgary Police Service contributed substantial input in the research stage of the game and helped the team come up with the most realistic simulations possible.
Calgary police Cst. Rob Haffner said he hopes the game will be used to raise awareness about the dangers of impaired driving.
“It most definitely has the potential to be used by the city police. Hopefully it is one of the applications used at agencies here in Calgary, including the interactive Police Service museum, and across North America,” Haffner said.
Jim Parker is currently Full Professor of Computer Science at the University of Calgary working in the Faculty of Fine Arts. He works on digital media in the form of video games (especially Serious Games), animations, audio, and novel interfaces to computers and their incorporation into human-centered systems. Parker is involved in digital media, sport technology and fine arts. He believes that “there are natural connections between computer games, theatre, and human movement/natural interfaces” and uses his projects to connect these diverse departments.
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