Stop Disasters!

Common Sense Media says

Natural disasters become less scary in sim games.

Age(i)

2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17

Quality(i)

 

Learning(i)

What parents need to know

Positive messages

Kids learn about what it takes to prepare for natural disasters. They also learn about helping others in time of need.

Positive role models

This simulation game puts the player in the role of trying to protect a geographic area from disaster. The player is the only role model in the game.

Ease of play

The game comes with a good tutorial, but you have to experiment with strategies to get better.

Violence

Violence in nature is depicted and can be scary for sensitive kids. After a natural disaster occurs, kids are shown (via newspaper headlines) how many people perished. People are reported as dead or injured, but you never see anyone being hurt -- you just see destroyed homes and landscapes.

Sex
Not applicable
Language
Not applicable
Consumerism
Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking
Not applicable
Privacy & safety
Not applicable

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that Stop Disasters! is a free online simulation games where kids will watch a disaster happen to a community from a top-down perspective. After preparing for the ensuing disaster, kids watch a wild fire engulf homes and burn them to the ground, or a hurricane blow off the top of buildings. The images in the games are graphic representations of areas -- not real-life photos or videos -- but because of the nature of the topic, the simulation might be too scary for some kids. No one is shown as being injured; the death toll is simply assigned in the aftermath. There are also videos and real stories of kids who survived disasters in the website's Information section.

What kids can learn

Subjects

Math

  • money
  • numbers
  • statistics

Science

  • weather
  • engineering
  • ecosystems

Social Studies

  • the economy
  • events
  • global awareness

Skills

Thinking & Reasoning

  • problem solving
  • analyzing evidence
  • applying information

Self-Direction

  • time management
  • work to achieve goals
  • working efficiently

Emotional Development

  • persevering
  • empathy
  • handling stress

Responsibility & Ethics

  • learning from consequences
  • making wise decisions

Engagement, Approach, Support

Engagement

Colorful maps keep simple sim scenes interesting, and ambient sounds matching each setting are great immersive elements. A probability meter and audible pulse that quickens as disaster draws near are expertly designed to keep players hooked.

Learning Approach

Each round of the game is challenge-based, and players learn through trial-and-error. Strong readers are at an advantage, as chances for improvement rely on close attention to text-based clues and advice from local experts.

Support

Quick pre-game instructions easily get you going, but almost all supports are text-based. Progress stats are clear and well-placed at the bottom of the screen, and a click-to overview tab reminds players of goals if needed along the way.

What kids can learn

Subjects

Math

  • money
  • numbers
  • statistics

Science

  • weather
  • engineering
  • ecosystems

Social Studies

  • the economy
  • events
  • global awareness

Skills

Thinking & Reasoning

  • problem solving
  • analyzing evidence
  • applying information

Self-Direction

  • time management
  • work to achieve goals
  • working efficiently

Emotional Development

  • persevering
  • empathy
  • handling stress

Responsibility & Ethics

  • learning from consequences
  • making wise decisions

Kids can learn about several types of natural disasters that loom as an everyday reality in many parts of the world, and how safety must be carefully engineered. Each challenge has a max budget, and while time is the ultimate obstacle, success depends largely on how well players manage money. Budding engineers can experiment with different building materials to determine which are safer than others, or how devices like firebreaks and seismic sensors can minimize impact. Stop Disasters is a powerful illustration of how science, economics, and global issues are closely related in real life.

This Learning Rating review was written by Marc Lesser

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What's it about?

The United Nations' International Strategy for Disaster Reduction organization came up with STOP DISASTERS! game to help kids learn about natural disasters, how to prevent and mitigate their effects, and how to deal with the aftermath. This game educates kids by having them play through five scenarios: a tsunami in Southeast Asia, a hurricane in the Caribbean, a wildfire in Australia, an earthquake in the Mediterranean, and a flood in Europe. Each disaster can be played on three levels of difficulty. In each scenario, kids are given a set amount of money and time to make improvements to a community before a natural hazard occurs. As you play the simulation, you're given suggestions about how to prepare your community for the upcoming hazard. When you are done with preparations, the disaster occurs, which you watch from a top-down perspective. The game judges you on how well you protected your community.

Is it any good?

QUALITY
 

As with all good simulation games, in Stop Disasters!, kids learn by trial and error. The great plus here is that developers have taken extra steps to ensure that players are engaged whether they succeed in a round or not. Sharp graphics (for a sim) and great sound elements boost engagement; and the rush of racing against the clock leaves players wanting more regardless of the outcome. One caveat: Given the nature of the topic, some kids may find the simulations scary. But while people are reported as dead or injured, you never see anyone being hurt -- most of the fallout from disasters is reported as a fake news bulletin at the end of each round.

For those not put off by the subject matter, the game offers a terrific immersion that illustrates how public safety must be carefully engineered. In addition to learning by doing, the associated site to the game also provides fact sheets on each type of disaster and links to other resources.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about whether they live in an area likely to experience a natural disaster and what steps they can take to minimize its effect.

  • Many times, people affected by disasters don't have access to the Internet or cell phone coverage. How else might they get information they need to protect themselves? Warning systems? Radio broadcasts?

Game details

Platforms:Mac, Windows
Price:Free
Pricing structure:Free
Available online?Not available online
Developer:United Nations International Strategy for Disaster Reduction
Release date:March 5, 2007
Genre:Educational
Topics:Science and nature

This review of Stop Disasters! was written by

About our rating system

  • ON: Content is age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • PAUSE: Know your child; some content may not be right for some kids.
  • OFF: Not age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • NOT FOR KIDS: Not appropriate for kids of any age.

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Quality

Our star rating assesses the media's overall quality.

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Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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