Virtual Reality

, Volume 13, Issue 1, pp 13–25 | Cite as

The Virtual Scylla: an exploration of “serious games”, artificial life and simulation complexity

  • Robert StoneEmail author
  • David White
  • Robert Guest
  • Benjamin Francis
SI: Serious Gaming


This paper addresses the integration of artificial life simulations with interactive games-based technologies and describes how the results are being exploited not only for scientific visualisation and education, but also for fundamental research into simulation complexity, focusing on the behavioural representation of species in fragile or long-vanished landscapes and ecosystems. Earlier research is described that supported the development of a virtual recreation of a submerged Mesolithic river valley, discovered during petrochemical surveys of the Southern Basin of the North Sea. Using pollen sample records and vegetation predictions from previous studies, a new alife “engine” was developed that simulated the interaction between “artificialised” vegetation and environmental factors, thus helping researchers to postulate pre-glacial melting migratory and settlement patterns of ancient civilisations from continental Europe to the British Isles. More recently, and to take advantage of the existence of a more accessible and living ecosystem, work has been conducted in collaboration with the UK’s National Marine Aquarium, this time focusing on the Scylla Artificial Reef—a Royal Navy frigate scuttled off the coast of Cornwall in South West England. The resulting “serious games”-based test beds are now providing the foundation for scientific investigations into how models and simulations of marine ecologies behave under different measures of complexity. The exploitation of the artificial life and underwater rendering efforts in others areas, including education and naval training, are also described.


Serious games Virtual heritage Artificial life Marine biology Climate change Simulation complexity 



The authors would like to acknowledge contributions to the Virtual Scylla project from Debbie Snelling, Gareth Shaw and Paul Cox of the National Marine Aquarium, Dr Keith Hiscock of the Marine Biological Association, Dr Jason Hall-Spencer (University of Plymouth Marine Institute), Cdr Andy Waddington (Royal Navy Hydrographic, Meteorological and Oceanographic Training Group) and Mark Gormley (MEng student at the University of Birmingham). The previous alife research of Dr Eugene Ch’ng, now at the University of Wolverhampton is also acknowledged. The catalyst for Phase 1 of the Virtual Scylla project was a Royal Academy of Engineering grant to develop teaching in Integrated Systems Design. (based at the University of Plymouth and involving two of the authors—Robert Stone and Robert Guest). Phase 2 of the project was part-funded by Advantage West Midlands, via an Interactive Digital Media project coordinated by Birmingham City University.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag London Limited 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Robert Stone
    • 1
    Email author
  • David White
    • 1
  • Robert Guest
    • 1
  • Benjamin Francis
    • 1
  1. 1.Human Interface Technologies Team, School of Electronic, Electrical and Computer EngineeringUniversity of BirminghamBirminghamUK

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