University of Georgia Regents’ Professor Samantha Joye has taken on a new project outside of the classroom. Joye served as a consultant for “Beyond Blue,” the newest video game from E-Line Media, and also worked with the researchers behind the British Broadcasting Corporation’s “Blue Planet II.”
“Beyond Blue” gives users the chance to be a part of a deep-ocean research team that utilizes advanced technology to explore and learn more about underwater environments. Through the eyes of the character Mirai, an oceanic explorer and scientist, players can experience an immersive tour of the ocean that could inspire them to engage in ocean advocacy, Joye said.
The Red & Black spoke with Joye to learn more about her involvement in the creation of “Beyond Blue” and to hear her hopes on what users take away from the game.
The Red & Black: Tell me a bit about your background in oceanography and your love/interest for the environment.
Samantha Joye: I grew up on the border of North and South Carolina, so I spent a lot of time at the coast as a kid and developed a love for the ocean. But growing up I never really considered becoming an oceanographer because I didn’t know you could do that as a career. When I went off to college at [the University of North Carolina] Chapel Hill I took a marine science class, and the instructor was an incredible professor named Conrad Newman. You often hear stories about how one person can change your life, and he changed mine. He's the one who suggested that I go to graduate school and become an oceanographer instead of going to medical school, and that’s what I did. It was kind of crazy when I look back on it but I've never regretted it for a minute.
R&B: How did you become a consultant for “Beyond Blue?” What were your responsibilities under this role?
SJ: BBC called me and wanted me to be an advisor for the deep episode of “Blue Planet II” which resulted in me leading an expedition out to the Gulf of Mexico with them to film. Oddly enough, this led to me getting connected with the folks from E-Line Media. They asked me to join the team as a science advisor, and I ended up becoming the chief science advisor for the game. My role involved essentially meeting with the developers regularly to talk about all kinds of things about the deep sea, the environment and dynamic technology. We spent a lot of time discussing what kinds of technologies are available now, what we think will be available in 15 to 20 years and how we can implement those technologies in the game. We wanted to sort of think outside the box and get creative. I also was able to provide inspiration for some of the characters and some of the real-time issues they would encounter as an oceanographer.
R&B: What is the purpose of the game?
SJ: The purpose of the game is to use environmental forensics to solve a mystery. It’s sort of like “CSI.” So there's an environmental problem that has to be solved, and the game player must work his/her way through solving this problem through the eyes of Mirari and her team. So while solving the mystery is one part of [the purpose], part of it is also learning about the deep oceanic environment and experiencing what it’s like to be a deep ocean scientist. It’s an educational platform, and I truly believe this game is going to inspire people to learn about the ocean and become ocean advocates and potentially scientists one day.
R&B: What was your experience like working on the “Blue Planet II” docu-series?
SJ: Being involved with the development of “Blue Planet II” with BBC was an incredible experience. It was so incredible working with others who share an absolute love and fascination for the deep sea. I met some people from working on “Blue Planet II” and “Beyond Blue” that I will work with for the rest of my career and be friends with for the rest of my life. Part of being a scientist is about building relationships and having the opportunity to work with truly exceptional people to do truly exceptional things. And I feel like we had really great success with “Blue Planet II” and “Beyond Blue” and I couldn't be prouder to be part of our team.
R&B: Will you use “Beyond Blue” as a learning tool in the classroom when instructing on oceanic ecosystems?
SJ: [E-Line Media and I] talked about implementing teaching modules for schools because this game involves a decision tree where you’re at one position and to get to the next you must solve a problem correctly. So there's a way that you could tune that to be an educational tool in the classroom whether it's college, high school or elementary school students. You could build game scenarios that are structured around lectures and educational content that allow the game player to test his/her knowledge while they learn.
R&B: What is the main takeaway you hope users gain from the game?
SJ: I hope people understand the fragility of the environment. I think we live in a society that is very disconnected from the natural world, and most people don’t have a fundamental appreciation for what the natural world does for us every day. Humans are inextricably linked to the oceans, and we take it for granted. And I think the fragility of the environment is something that we all need to recognize because there comes a point when so much damage has been done that you can’t take it back. This game exposes that fragility but also paves a path forward to restoration.