The Situation Room Experience

The room is buzzing with energy. News reports are flashing across the screen. The networks are racing for the latest scoop. Confusion and chaos are threatening to spread in the aftermath of a crisis. Someone asks, “What are we going to do?” Now all eyes in the room are fixed on you. This is the Situation Room Experience at the Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush Presidential Libraries. Watch Trailer

In early 2016, the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library & Museum in Simi Valley, California, asked SenovvA to help design a cutting-edge, interactive learning environment called The Situation Room Experience. This 90-minute simulation challenges high school and university students to manage a fictional international foreign policy crisis, making key governmental decisions and reporting on events as they happen.

Each student plays a role as a member of the White House Crisis Management Team (like the National Security Advisor or the Secretary of State) or as a key member of the media as the crisis unfolds. One of two historic White House Situation Rooms – preserved and reconstructed after a 2007 renovation – serves as the live action backdrop to the fictional crisis.

As technology designer and software developer for this “one-of-a-kind educational gaming environment,” SenovvA joined the library’s project team of education directors, curators, university professors, writers, and Hollywood designers. All were tasked with creating 450 pages of original simulation content, installing up-to-date communications technology into a historic space, identifying the dozens of decisions to be made and the outcomes of each, and filming three hours of original, integrated video to heighten the feeling of realism.

The library notes, “Each student is provided an electronic tablet that outlines their unique role, providing them with critical real-time information that drives their experience. Students make individual and collective decisions that alter the narrative in real time.” SenovvA keyed each tablet to an individual role so that it receives role-specific information and allows role-appropriate responses. Students also receive information from four network feeds that feature student-submitted stories. “Their reporting, accurate or not, influences the outcome of the scenario,” the library said.

SenovvA developers created scenarios associated with every variable and every decision, and linked the hand-held devices, computers, video displays, and cameras together for live communication via a closed Local Area Network (LAN). SenovvA carefully imbedded cameras, displays, microphones, and speakers into the historic White House Situation Room, and five media servers were programmed with the simulation’s 75-minute timeline of media content and communications.

“There was no model for the project,” said SenovvA’s Curtis Kelly. The core production team included a writer/game designer, technology integrators and programmers, art director and education director all of whom needed to build an entirely new experience to meet the objectives of the project.”