coralcross2009Back in April, the Hawaii State Department of Heath kicked off a public engagement initiative to raise awareness about the state’s pandemic priorities. The planned campaign included community meetings, a live TV panel, and Coral Cross: an alternate reality game.

Things have changed.

News reports providing detailed coverage on the recent outbreak of the H1N1 virus, commonly referred to as “swine flu”, have impressed upon the global community the dangers of a pandemic outbreak. In the ensuing frenzy, the Egyptian government slaughtered pigs. To date, there are ten confirmed cases of H1N1 in Hawaii. There no longer appears to be a need to raise awareness about the threat of pandemics. People are aware.

Designers at the Hawaii Research Center for Futures Studies originally intended to center around Coral Cross of Oahu, a fictional emergency preparedness and response agency established in 2011 that was to be, as Matthew Jensen explains, “a grassroots network, a product of Obama-era public service and web savvy, organizing community responses ahead of large-scale government intervention…[playing] on current trends in social media and gameplay to encourage vigilance in the face of a long-term pandemic threat.” While these principles will still guide the redesign process, Coral Cross has switched from being an Alternate Reality Game taking place in 2012 to an Emergent Reality Game dealing with the current crisis.

The prior incarnation of Coral Cross would have challenged players to imagine how their lives could be affected by the threat of a pandemic. The new goal of Coral Cross, according to project consultant Jake Dunagan, is to ascertain “what a real, bottom-up emergency response could look like” while spreading knowledge and responsible behavior in the face of an actual threat.

According to experts at the University of Pennsylvania and Wharton, the feverish pitch of official warnings and media coverage was not overblown. However, the outbreak has shown that governments and large businesses need to develop more extensive and adaptable risk management plans to deal with the rapid spread of disease. The upcoming release of Coral Cross later this month offers the opportunity to influence public policy through crowdsourcing.

Participants can pre-register for Coral Cross at

Click Here for a press release from the Hawaii Research Center for Futures Studies.