Sharkrunners: Realtime Data Used for a Game

shark map

The Discovery Channel is using Sharkrunners, an online game, to teach people what it’s like to be a marine biologist who is tracking sharks. The game is easy to play, but original.

Players are given a virtual boat and virtual crew. They use it to track real-life sharks that have been tagged with a GPS recievers. When a boat encounters a shark the player is alerted via email and/or SMS. The player has three hours to select how to try to collect data about the shark and its behavior. The goal is to gather as much data about sharks as possible.

In Sharkrunners my boat, the Roo, has just left the port of San Luis Obispo. We had our first encounter 15 minutes after leaving port. Now that I have some funding I’ll probably get another crew member (which increases the likelihood of my getting data and decreases the likelihood of my crew dying) or upgrade my boat (a better craft allows me to stay out to sea longer). My single shark encounter netted me $2,200. GIven that the game launched a week and players already have over $700,000, I think the players really like it.

The game was developed by area/code, a NYC-based company. They have also developed games for the Sopranos. Dennis Crowley, formerly of Dodgeball, was at Where 2.0 talking about Plundr, a wifi pirate game. He had a demo version of Plundr running on the Nintendo DS Lite — a great use of Skyhook‘s geolocation APIs and Nintendo DS homebrew.

Taking realtime data and crafting it into a game is still new. As sensor networks increase, I think that we can expect more games like this to appear. It’s good for teaching us about our world and new technology, but it can be scary. How long till a game like Sharkrunners is turned into a game fitting the title RedLightRunners?

Additional Screenshots

shark encounter options

Your options upon encountering a shark. Most of the options aren’t available to me as I only have two crew members.

shark hunting results

Success! I am rewarded with funding, some shark facts, and a shark video.

Thanks for the tip Jane!

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