For this article I would like to compare GIS to a very expansive forest that is constantly breaking its banks and invading coastal towns. The waters of GIS have swamped fields such as business, health and are now encroaching into the least likely of places; GIS and gaming. I am almost 90% certain most of you crinkled your brows in skepticism when you saw the title. However, I kid you not, GIS has found a way to brilliantly embed itself into the gaming industry.
Video games, besides being a major mode of entertainment for majority of today’s youth, kids and adults as well. Hence it is a great avenue for education about history or certain aspects of modern day life. There was a dying need for games to be more than just entertainment. Gaming companies are going neck to neck looking for new ways to enrich their material and attract wider audiences. The result to their long and arduous search has been killer graphics, stimulating music, in game virtual economies and environments; most recently AR and VR. Besides this, some major names in the industry have embraced GIS and made impressive new titles with it.
Some of these are;
- Grand Theft Auto V and Call of Duty: Ghosts, which have integrated multiplayer maps without which the games would be on the opposite end of the spectrum, by which I mean, they would be an absolute bore.
- SimCity – Here the player gets to build their own world within the game
And the mother of them all
I would call Pokémon Go, a map application with the gaming aspect being just of its layers. I believe everyone reading this has played the game or has at some point come across someone wondering awkwardly about a park, chasing Pokémons. In 2016,summer was so much brighter with the game in place. The makers of Pokémon very cleverly used GIS and mapping; the app uses the players’ immediate environment’s topography to place the creatures in various places for capture. The map and augmented reality give the game a more life-like feel. What’s even more impressive is they got the indoor-gamer to get out and chase something around.
There have been some concerns about privacy being breached in desperate hunt for Pokémons, and several cases of accidents where the victims were paying attention to filling their poke-balls and forgot to look out for oncoming traffic, or fell off the end of a cliff.
There are several GIS software that have been used in game development. Among them; City Engine by ESRI, Google earth, Infraworks, Sketch Up, etc. These are used to create spatially accurate 3D environments to be used within the games. E.g. a matatu racing game could have a simulation of Nairobi CBD, as it is on the ground within the game.
For the Geospatial field, work and play have seamlessly come together. Those looking for jobs should also consider new avenues opening up in the game development sector. Several companies are now getting into GIS for gaming; a good example being Gamesim, which is a company that develops video games and also does modeling and simulations and has worked with the giants in the gaming industry like EA Sports.
With this I hope to have proved that game development is a valid and available career for a GIS professional.