In HamRadioNow Episode 178 (Radio Games, embedded below), my partner Jeff AC4ZO and I banter about the concept of “rebranding” ham radio contests to make them more attractive to young people. My suggestion is to call them Radio Games, an allusion to Video Games, of course, which attract young people like crazy.
About this point in this article, I’d be disappointed if a few of you readers didn’t go nonlinear, considering this idea to be:
- fully baked, and
- the end of Amateur Radio as we know it
So if you actually watch the show, you realize that the idea isn’t even half-baked. It hasn’t even hit the oven. It’s fodder for a TV show conversation (makes a good radio show if you just want to listen to it) listen to it
And you’ll notice we wander around the point so much that you may think we’ll never actually make it. But we do. Then it’s off to other stuff. Some of you will like it, some of you will hate it, and that’s show biz.
But while the idea is far from mature, I’m serious about it in some fashion.
I think there’s little argument that we need to attract many more young people to ham radio, people in their teens, twenties and thirties. And I think what what attracted us old farts (I’m 65, and in a couple weeks I’ll hit my 50th year of hamming) isn’t attracting young people today. Not many, anyway. Something about ham radio has to change.
I don’t know what that is. Nobody knows for sure, or we’d be doing it (and once again leading us all to the End of Amateur Radio As We Know It). But for sure it’s not One Thing. It’ll be a lot of things, some little and some big.
One of those things might be figuring out how to make ham radio interesting to some of the people who love video games. They’re mostly young. Many have an interest in technology. And if we got just a small fraction of them, we’re still talking about thousands, maybe tens of thousands. Our contests are a starting point. Just changing the name to (or adding the name) Radio Games isn’t going to fool anyone. But it seems to me that integrating the elements of radio that we know – the vagaries of propagation, the competition for contacts, the reality of having to make something work with your own hardware and skill – to the aspects of video games that they know, might be an interesting mix.
For me, this is just fodder for my TV show and a column here on AmateurRadio.com. I’m sure not going to be the one doing it. I’m not a contester beyond making a few random contacts now and then, and I’m not a gamer. Which just may mean I don’t know what I’m talking about, and that wouldn’t be front page news, either.
But it is something to think about, maybe to talk about. First-class video games are multi-hundred-million dollar epics. The biggest probably involve more money than all of ham radio worldwide. They blow Hollywood out of the water. But a Ham Radio themed game doesn’t have to be the biggest and best. I guess I’d just hope that if someone develops one, it isn’t lame. But everybody’s a critic, and no matter how good it is, someone will call it lame. So I’m not going to worry about it.
Here’s the show. The most perceptive (or maybe just cynical) among you will recognize this column as just an excuse to get people to watch the show. You’d be right. And… sorry about the distorted audio. I did figure out what was happening.*
73, Gary KN4AQ
*What was happening to the audio? Google’s Chrome browser was grabbing the Windows Record Level setting and cranking it up so it could hear me say “OK Google” to initiate a voice search. That happened ever time I opened a tab with Google’s search page in it (and that’s where new tabs defaulted, so if it happened a lot). Later, I found a setting to turn “OK Google” off, but not one to tell Google to leave my audio alone, period. If I initiate a Google Hangout, Google grabs it again. Grrr.