Crash1st July 1985
Published in Crash #18
Worldwise: Nuclear Weapons
This is probably one of the most unusual programs I have seen. Worldwise is described as 'a microcomputer atlas that can be used to study a variety of world problems' in this case it is the nuclear threat that is focussed on, though it is hoped that future programs will deal with such topics as literacy, food, health and wealth.
The program comes complete with a twenty seven-page user manual which gives very detailed instructions on using both the Worldwise Atlas and the Nuclear Weapons sections of the program. The Atlas holds more than 130 countries, and maps may be reduced or enlarged in the Atlas part of the program.
While the User Manual suggests that individual or team games may be played to test knowledge of the names and relative positions of countries, with the best will in the world, I cannot see that the games suggested would provide much fun or enjoyment, though they would certainly be of educational value.
When it comes to using the Nuclear Weapons section, the player is asked to select from the frightening list of weapons owned by the USA, USSR, France and China. It is then possible to choose an area of the world and call up on the screen the various weapons deployed there.
In this respect, the program succeeds in making one aware of the reality of the nuclear threat, and of the proliferation of weapons distributed around the world. Again, this section in the Users Manual is followed by suggestions for simulation games involving two negotiating teams representing the West (USA. UK, France) and the East (USSR. China). These games are proposed for use in the classroom but would, I think, only be successful with the brightest of senior pupils, and only with a vast amount of preparation and guidance by the teacher. Paul Smoker, the author of Worldwise has used the simulations very successfully with groups of students at the Richardson Institute who are following Peace Studies courses, but while appreciating that the program might appeal to undergraduates, I doubt if it will enjoy much success in schools.
Certainly the idea of classroom simulations as a way of focussing discussion on the problems of the nuclear age is a very worthwhile one, but I feel that the rather dull presentation of the program would not endear it to school pupils. More clearly-defined situations, which took the players step-by-step through the decision making processes involved would have made the game more accessible. Nor, as it stands, is the program likely to have immediate appeal to teachers, because of the vast amount of direction and help they would have to give to their pupils.
I'm sure though, that the program will be very successful with the undergraduate audience that it was devised for perhaps too with other groups, like the Greenham Common protesters, although I don't think there is much call for home computers in their tents!
Control keys: the variety of keys to be used in the different sections of the program is explained very clearly in the Users Manual
Keyboard play: very fast
Use of colour: good
Graphics: mainly maps, but clear representations