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Gaming Bridge Integrity

Friday, April 3, 2015

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A locomotive races toward a bridge of uncertain age, composition and condition.

Despite the lack of that critical data, you have just seconds to assess whether the bridge can handle the tonnage bearing down on it. Guess wrong, and the train and trestle collapse, taking lives with them.


Mark Ellis: Train Bridge Inspector was developed aboard an American train by two Dutch game designers intrigued by the notion that U.S. railroad companies get to inspect their own bridges.

Fortunately, this time, it's only a game.

Meet Mark Ellis

Mark Ellis: Train Bridge Inspector, complete with massive local multiplayer version and a mobile companion app, is the free new offering from Vlambeer, a Dutch indie company that specializes in retro arcade-type games.

The game was designed last month during Train Jam, in which a collection of developers traveled by train from Chicago to the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco and created games along the 52-hour route.

Mark Ellis was the brainchild of Dutch designers Adriaan de Jongh and Rami Ismail, who said they were inspired by "the trivia that American train bridges are assessed by the companies that control the railroad."

joseg2143 / YouTube

A July 2012 derailment of 32 coal cars dropped a railroad trestle in Northbrook, IL, onto a car.  U.S. DOT is examining how well the Federal Railroad Administration is overseeing rail bridge safety.

That "trivia" is true and, in fact, not at all trivial: A steadily growing number of railroad bridge crashes recently prompted a federal audit by the Department of Transportation into whether the Federal Railroad Administration is doing an adequate job of monitoring the safety of those 77,000 structures.

The audit follows 24 accidents with hundreds of injuries on U.S. rail bridges over the past 10 years.

Play On

The bridge game is quick, but relentless. The player eyes the bridge, quickly assigns it either a checkmark or an X, and watches as the train crosses safely or goes down in a heap of tangled trestle.

(Realistic or not, most of the bridges appear to be in terrible shape and not capable of handling any weight, much less a train.)

Adriaan de Jongh Rami Ismail (left); LinkedIn (right)

Adriaan de Jongh (left) and Rami Ismail created the game for the Dutch indie company Vlambeer.

The assessment is stamped correct or failed, and the game immediately restarts with a new date.

One can only hope that actual bridge inspections take a bit longer.

Download Mark Ellis: Train Bridge Inspector.


Tagged categories: Accidents; EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Africa); Federal Railroad Administration; Government; Health & Safety; Health and safety; Inspection; North America

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