GIS Gamification Gives Professionals New Career Paths

August 20, 2014
By: Casey Houser

The gamification of geographic information systems is reportedly giving career professionals new life as they apply their skills at mapping the real world to creating virtual worlds used by the most intensive video game connoisseurs.

American Sentinel University, a U.S. university that offers degrees in information technology and business intelligence, released a news brief this week that described the gaming world's need for real-life data sets to inform the creation of their virtual worlds, and GIS professionals are helping define those virtual worlds.

Stephen A. McElroy, a GIS program chair at American Sentinel University, discussed this shift in responsibility for such professionals.

"GIS provides the source data to enrich our understanding of a host of human interactions with the landscape," McElroy said. "Whether it is introducing an improved user experience for games or creating more dynamic public spaces for our citizens to enjoy, there are so many ways in which GIS data can be leveraged to improve the world."

Experts who are able to construct and map physical worlds are being used more and more in the gaming industry to provide their specific knowledge that will help create the most realistic video games players have yet seen. Outside first person shooters and driving simulators, though, GIS professionals are being called to help the field of education and emergency response.

First, considering education, experts who build virtual worlds can create immersive environments that allow simple games to explain spatial concepts to students who may have a hard time considering spatial relationships. Real world data can allow these lessons to take place in the context of "real" environments that are virtual but are based exactly on real landscapes or buildings.

Beyond that, GIS professionals can create games that simulate emergencies that first responders such as police and fire departments will encounter. Policemen and firemen can train for events they may see in the real world through virtual simulations that are both lifelike and contain consequences.

The more lifelike the simulations become, the more effective they may be for those students involved. Whether lessons are considering spatial relationships, the life of a person, or the spread of fire in a burning building, games can help people involved in those scenarios enhance their skills and therefore become better prepared for tasks they will face outside the classroom.

Indeed, GIS professionals should continue to see a demand for their skills as they can create simulations that are more lifelike and games that more accurately address the needs of various other professions and life skills.

Edited by Stefania Viscusi