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In an interview with Ken Kashiwahara on ABC's Nightline in 1981, Chris Crawford had this to say about his game:
"A nuclear power plant is a very dynamic thing. I wanted something that shows the functioning of it, how all of the pieces fit together, because it is a complex machine that is highly interactive... That's what I wanted to get across, and a computer was the best way to do that.
"The best way to learn about something is to play with it. Now, it's no good to play with the real thing, though. You don't teach three-year-olds how to drive by throwing them into a car and letting them go, and you don't teach nuclear operators how to run a nuclear power plant by letting them run a real power plant."
During Crawford's demonstration of the game, Crawford simulates a problem by fiddling the system:
"I can come over here to these main feed water pumps and turn them off if I want and see what happens when I do that. [high-pitched voice] Oh boy, I mean, let's see what happens when we turn off the main feed water pump. OH NO! Steam voiding? Oh no! [regular voice] The reactor gets a little warm all of a sudden. So, I blew it.
"Once you think you know then you go back and play it as a game, because you raise the risk level and earth quakes start to come. They break components down, they break pumps, they break valves... There's an earthquake! So I've got an earthquake coming here shaking up that power plant, and it broke something, you can hear it go "clang" because something broke. Uh-ho, steam voiding. I'm in trouble already. What broke? Well, I analyze the situation, I look at the temperatures on the right side of the screen. I see 96 and 63, the 63 is a falling temperature; that tells me that one of these circulating water pumps broke, so I send 5 workers in to repair it. They repair the pump, and everything's going... start cooling off again."
(Transcribed by this writer from the original televised interview)
Conclusion and trivia
SCRAM is a disaster management game to help players learn about the function of a real nuclear reactor. The game is designed to keep going, with the optional disasters impeding progress, until neglect leads to a meltdown of the reactor's core, ending the simulation (and the lives of the simulated workers, most likely).
The term SCRAM comes from the emergency shutdown procedure of a nuclear reactor should the cooling units not be sufficient to prevent the reactions from overheating the reactor's container.