With the expansion and diversification of the mining industry workforce, trainers have identified a growing need for new and more versatile training materials. Well-designed computer games can serve a valuable role in supplementing established best practices in workplace learning. Toward this end, we have developed MineSAFE, a new platform that is being used to create "serious games" for mine safety education. The objectives of this platform are three-fold: (1) to elicit critical thinking about mine safety practices through interactive and contextualized learning; (2) to allow customization of learning materials for specific audiences, mine methods, and sites, with a particular emphasis on workplace literacy; and (3) to empower trainers to evaluate user understanding and decision making through a suite of integrated evaluation tools.
Using the MineSAFE platform, we have developed a variety of game prototypes addressing specific needs in mine safety training. For example, Harry's Hard Choices is a "serious game" for mine emergency preparedness. Based on a paper exercise by NIOSH (Vaught, Hall, & Klein 2009), trainees role-play as a section foreman who must lead his crew to safety in the face of an unfolding mine disaster. Harry's Hard Choices covers many CFR Part 48 topics; it provides an exciting context for learning that involves fires, lethal gases, explosions, injuries, failed equipment, ground falls, and crew conflicts. An emergent storyline responds to players' choices, forcing them to carefully consider each decision. Game mechanics, such as rewards and penalties, promote replayability as players strive to improve their scores and get better outcomes. Additional games are being developed to address the teaching of fatalgrams, site inspections, and hazards recognition.