Academic research at Durham University in the UK has suggested that video games such as Far Cry, Doom and Counter Strike, make better fire drill simulators than traditional virtual reality toolkits.
Using the Source engine, a single developer was able to create a 3D model of the Computer Science department of Durham University, as well as three fire scenarios complete with fire and smoke effects, in just three weeks - significantly quicker than if the simulation had been created using virtual reality toolkits, which often require much more advanced programming.
Research has previously shown that real evacuations often fail due to poor building layouts or people not following evacuation procedures or protocol.
The scientists behind the research believe that using a virtual world can help identify problems with a buildings layout, as well as help teach people evacuation routines and practices.
Lead author, Dr Shamus Smith believes that video games make better simulators is because adding features such as fire and smoke were easier in comparison to virtual reality toolkits. "In order to include these features using toolkits, it often requires additional programming skills and a substantial time investment on the part of the developer. By using readily available computer games, these features can be very easily simulated and are obviously vital in creating a virtual fire evacuation scenario", he said.
The study also tested use of the virtual environment, with most people finding the simulation to be realistic, although the study noted that gamers performed better in the simulation than non-gamers.
You can see a video of the simulation here.