Today the Nuclear Threat Initiative (NTI) released a dramatic new mobile game to raise awareness about global nuclear threats. Developed by Simcoach Games and with narration from Emmy Award-winning actor Harry Hamlin, Hair Trigger draws on real life, close-call events to allow the player to experience the dangers posed by nuclear weapons. The game is being launched at the annual Games for Change Festival, a global convening of game developers, educators, and social innovators focused on social impact and innovation in gaming.
In Hair Trigger, the player takes on the role of a newly elected President of the United States. The player must navigate competing pressures to build domestic support and carefully manage international relations while in a race against time to remove all nuclear weapons from hair-trigger status, in cooperation with Russia. While the game offers a fun and engaging challenge designed to generate curiosity, conversation, and action, the risks it presents could not be more real.
“As the COVID-19 pandemic has so starkly demonstrated, existential threats to humanity seem remote until they aren’t,” said former U.S. Secretary of Energy Ernest J. Moniz, who serves as NTI’s Co-Chair and Chief Executive Officer. “This year marks the 75th anniversary of the first atomic test, and with the elimination of major arms control treaties, the potential for cyberattacks, miscalculation and human error, we are perilously close to catastrophe. Gen X, millennials, and Gen Z aren’t old enough to remember the Cold War’s ever-present fear of nuclear annihilation, but we are relying on them to find solutions to today’s evolving nuclear risks. Hair Trigger brings those risks to life and can give players a taste of how challenging the job will be.”
In a 2019 Foreign Affairs article, Moniz and NTI Co-Chair Sam Nunn gave a stark assessment of today’s nuclear threats: “The United States and Russia are now in a state of strategic instability; an accident or mishap could set off a cataclysm. Not since the 1962 Cuban missile crisis has the risk of a U.S.-Russian confrontation involving the use of nuclear weapons been as high as it is today. Yet unlike during the Cold War, both sides seem willfully blind to the peril.”
The game is populated with presidential advisors who offer sometimes-conflicting guidance. Play is affected by events and false alarms “ripped from the headlines,” including historic close calls, human error, and the 2018 false missile alert in Hawaii. As president, the player decides whether to use domestic political capital (the “points” of the game) to negotiate deals or take unilateral action to take weapons off hair-trigger alert. The Russian ambassador plays the role of “frenemy” during negotiations and throughout the game.
“Games are an effective way to communicate, educate, and inspire. The Simcoach Games team designed Hair Trigger to give players a fun, challenging, and relevant interactive experience while opening their eyes to today’s nuclear dangers,” said Jess Trybus, founder and Chief Games Officer of Simcoach Games. “We hope the game will move players to learn more and get involved in efforts to solve the big problems that NTI addresses. “
Hair Trigger is part of the rapidly growing “games for change” field that matches interest in games with millennials’ desire to do good. The 2019 Essential Facts report from the Entertainment Software Association shows that 75% of American households have at least one gamer, with 33 being the average gamer age. The majority of games (60%) are played on smartphones. Gamers are also civically engaged, with 59% saying they are certain they will vote in the next presidential election.
Hair Trigger is available on Android (phone and tablet) and will be available soon for tablets and smartphones on iOS (iPhone and iPad). Learn more and download the game here.
The Nuclear Threat Initiative (NTI) is a nonprofit, nonpartisan global security organization focused on reducing the nuclear and biological threats that are imperiling humanity. NTI does not endorse any candidates or parties.
Simcoach Games is a Pittsburgh-based technology spin-out of Carnegie Mellon University, dedicated to creating video games that inspire. Since 2005, they have partnered with industry leading organizations in retail, construction, manufacturing, government, and healthcare to produce free and engaging games that help players discover their aptitudes and interests. Visit them at www.simcoachgames.com.