Hawai'i Physical Geography (Landsat, Dew Point, Precipitation)

Lightning in the San Francisco Peaks (Cloud-to-ground Lightning, Landsat, Air & Ground Temperatures, Precipitation)
Grand Canyon Microclimate (NDVI, Winter Temps, Summer Temps)
Grand Canyon Formations & Topography (USGS Geology, Landsat)

Interactive Geovisualization "Video Games" &
Materials for Geomorphology, Physical Geography, Weather & Climate Labs

by Ryan.Heintzman@asu.edu  and RONALD.DORN@asu.edu
School of Geographical Sciences & Urban Planning
Arizona State University
last updated July 5, 2020



       The links below are to Microsoft Word and Powerpoint files that you are welcome to adapt.  Please feel free to use them in their entirety or in pieces.  I expect many of you to develop your own labs and assignments based on these geovisualizations of data in a video game format.  We would be grateful if you could send these to us, and if you wish, give us permission to post your assignments to this website (with authorship) for community use.

    We are NOT providing on this page the keys to the student questions or our canvas shells that have programmed banks of questions to minimize cheating in our large online classes.  If you are serious about using these labs and wish access to our question banks and keys, please send what you are interested in examining and your faculty website to RONALD.DORN@asu.edu. Then, we will get you access to what you need individually.


We provide you below links to microsoft word files of detailed lab instructions, so you can rebrand them for your college/university setting.   All of these detailed instructions are also available via the internet at this link in a format that students prefer to the lengthy PDF files (made from the microsoft word files). However, if you use this internet "lab textbook" -- you should be using the full labs, or it could get very confusing for your students.


Physical Geography of the Big Island of Hawai'i: Landsat Composite, Dew Point temperature, and Isohyets Overlaid on Topography

There are two labs that go with this game

Physical Geography of the Big Island of Hawai’i
designed for a physical geography  or environmental sciences course to be the equivalent of about 2.5 typical on ground sessions
Fire and Ice on the Big Island of Hawaii: Volcanic Hazards and Volcano Modification by Landform Processes
designed for an introductory geomorphology or physical geology course
Big Island Physical Geography Student Instructions
     Stage 0
     Stages A-B-C

Big Island Faculty Powerpoint File

Idea of a Big Island Tour, linking Google Street views to the game: KML file, Tour locations

Introduction to Big Island Tour for Students
Fire and Ice Student Instructions

Fire and ice Faculty Powerpoint File
Zoom Videos for this lab:

Introduction to the lab for students

Essence of the Hawai'i lab

Tips on doing the lab efficiently for students

Stage 0 videos:

Stage A Basics of Hawai'i Physical Geography

Stage B videos:

Question A5 tutorial,going over the example problem
Stage B videos:

Task 2: Deals with an aspect of how long-term climatic changes have altered the physical geography of the Big Island through glaciations during glacial cycles (hydrology and landforms). This video provides a tutorial that supplements instruction in the PDF file (Links to an external site.)

Task 4: Analyzing dew points on the Big island:a tutorial to supplement PDF instructions (Links to an external site.)

Cloud-to-ground lightning in the San Francisco Peaks of northern Arizona

Download the game at this link:

         Lightning in the Peaks Student Instructions: designed for a physical geography lab course to be the equivalent of about 2.5 typical on ground sessions, also suitable for weather and climate introductory.
Stage 0 Microsoft Word File

Stages A-B-C-D Microsoft Word File


Brief Explanation of the Assignment: youtube

Different Formats of the Tour Locations
Youtube Videos for this lab:

Intro to the lab for students

Essence of the lab

Stage 0: Merriam's life zones

Stage 0: Volcanic Landforms

Lecture video about Lightning for Stage A of the lab.

Stage B4: Wind roses and storm movement

Stag B6: Temp lapse rates

Stage C4: Parcel Stability

Stage C5: Upslope Winds

Stage C6: Thunderstorm Movement

Grand Canyon Geology Overlaid on Topography
available at

There are two labs that go with this game:

Why is the Grand Canyon so Grand?
designed for a physical geography or physical geology  to be the equivalent of about 2.5 typical on ground sessions
Timescapes of the Grand Canyon designed for an introductory geomorphology or physical geology course
Grand Canyon Grand Student Instructions
      Stage 0
      Stages A-B-C

Grand Canyon Grand Faculty Powerpoint File
Timescales Student Instructions

Timescales Faculty Powerpoint File
Short Zoom Videos Made for Students on this lab

Intro to the lab for students

Essence of Why is the Grand Canyon so Grand? lab

How to do this lab efficiently for students

Other introductory videos

Stage 0 Videos

Stage A: Basics of the Grand Canyon Topography (Geomorphology) - students will be asked for a logon (gph111) and a password (gaia)

Stage B Videos

      Measuring rates of Grand Canyon deepening and widening

Stage B Videos
Question B2:
How wide will the Grand Canyon be in 10 million years? tutorial

Question B4: Rates of incision vs. widening

Question B13: Temple separationks to an external site.)

Grand Canyon Microclimates and Vegetation: NDVI, Summer Surface Temperature and Winter Surface Temperature Overlaid on Topography
There is only one game


         Grand Canyon Microclimate Student Instructions: designed for a physical geography lab course to be the equivalent of about 2.5 typical on ground sessions, also suitable for weather and climate introductory .
                   Stage 0
                   Stages A-B-C-D

Grand Canyon Microclimate Faculty Powerpoint
Zoom Videos for this lab:

Intro to the Lab for Students

Question 5 in stage 0     explores cold air drainage, evaporative cooling, diurnal temperatures, treeline

Stage A: Lecture for students on Grand Canyon Microclimate

       Please understand that the versions of the labs that we have been testing are "bare bones". Our partner is Two Bent Coppers, a local Tempe, Arizona, sole proprietorship, an Arizona State University alumni with a passion for GIS who took the last five years to develop these games. The games are released to you now much earlier than 2BC wanted. However, 2BC agreed to this distribution because of the need to have great student lab experiences available for online learning.
      Two Bent Coppers has plans to increase true gaming aspects in the geovisualizations, as well as add in continuously improved visual effects and data readouts. The Gamejolt website links, provided above, provides 2BC the chance to semi-regularly post updates to the games.  So the games will only get better over time.

FUTURE GEOVISUALIZATIONS LABS:  We have plans for additional geovisualization labs.
          In addition,  2BC is open to developing labs for your study areas also.  Please email RONALD.DORN@asu.edu and he will put you in touch with 2BC. However, please realize that data used in these games must be in the public domain, or that the intellectual owners of those data must be able to give 2BC permission to use those data for commercial purposes.


    You may find useful a PDF of the canvas page providing hints on how to purchase the games. Some of our online students found the content useful.

   We assumed that most of our students have NOT played video games. Ron Dorn is 62 years old and does not play video games. Thus, he went through the process of figuring out how to play these games. Students may find Professor's Dorn's canvas page on how to play these games useful (and perhaps humorous if they do play video games).
   We often have to emphasize that these labs are longer than the typical short student labs. We note that our lab science requirement at ASU is 15 weeks of 3 hours of lab. Thus, we are wrapping all of our introductory lab science class into four game-based labs. Hence students should not try to complete them in one sitting. They take time, and the best way to stop and start is to use the PDF file. Remind them that when they get stuck, the questions have a walk-through example in the student instructions.

    Some students try to use very low end computers. The games need 4 GB of RAM at a minimum and a graphics card is important. But they can often get by on computers below the recommendations on the gamejolt website. When students complain that their computers are getting warm, tell them that this happens in the first 5-8 minutes when their computer builds the topography of the virtual world.  Have their laptop on a flat surface that is cool and to keep their laptop plugged in.


            To graduate, ASU students must take two lab science courses, either two SQ (quantitative science) or one SQ and one SG (general science). The materials we developed are designed to meet the SQ requirement.  Meeting the criteria for an SQ class requires that students actually do science. They gather data. They interpret data. They test hypotheses. This can be tough to pull off in an online environment.
           A worse problem faced by many students is a complete dislike of science, often due to bad experiences in high school or other college science courses.  Science should be fun and interesting, just like it was when we were six years old. The joy of learning about the natural world should never be crushed.
            To handle all of these, we have worked with a local Tempe game developer, Two Bent Coppers, who created geovisualizations that look and play like video games.  We are geographers who study climate, weather, landforms, plants, soils, hydrology and other components from a spatial perspective, to understand the processes of the redistribution of matter and energy that create wonderfully varied landscapes. Before computers, these labs involved interpreting distributions on maps. With computers, these distributions can now be displayed in a video game format to promote exploration and interaction.

Each game costs $15 USD.  A typical student will play 4 of these games to earn a top grade in our semester-long physical geography lab.  Thus, the total cost to our students is similar to our on-ground  lab paper manual.
           As academics, we are making our laboratories available to you and your students freely and with the only goal of helping the community in a great time of need for high quality online laboratory experiences. We stress to our students that the only cost in our class are these games.
           Please do not post the game to your university server or via something like drop-box. Doing such a thing would be illegal, and such an act of software piracy would be cause for termination of our employment at Arizona State University.


         These labs do not use a traditional percentage-based grading system, and so we thought it best to explain. If you use a percentage approach we still think you can easily adapt our materials. However, we have greatly impressed by student response to accrual grading. Sebastian Deterding's article [ Deterding, S. (2013). Gameful design for learning. T+ D, 67(7), 60-63.]  explains accrual grading as follows.

"In typical grading, students either score the average grade of their performance, or start out with an A and then see their grade degrade from there with every suboptimal performance. Motivationally, this is madness. Either you receive continued punishment for any glitch at the beginning, no matter how much progress you make after that, or you are put into a constant fear of less right from the get-to. In contrast, everything you do in games only gets you further. Challenge by challenge, you accrue 'experience points' that add up to 'levels'."

Thus, all of the lab materials involve the accumulation of points.  Our grading scales for the class are based on our experience in the effort and learning of students doing these labs over several semesters, and we can send you our syllabi if you wish. However, we think that you will be able to adapt the scoring to whatever approach works best for you.