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Gaming the Amateur Radio Digital Modes


Ever played poker over FT8? YouTuber Steve McGrane, KM9G (@temporarilyoffline), and his friends at the YouTube channel Coffee and Ham Radios (@coffeeandhamradios) do. They even livestream it monthly on the channel Frequency Frenzy (@FreqFrenzy). They’ve devised a system of automatically assigning values to QSO data from amateur radio digital mode contacts that corresponds with playing cards. The website uses the contest rules to display each participant’s poker hand. They run the events as sprint contests. Often, they are each in the same room together as they operate and “play” poker. “One of the things we had chosen FT8 for was we could have that camaraderie and bring us together as a group,” said McGrane.

The possibilities don’t end at poker. Since their contest rules just assign values from the QSOs, many games could be incorporated into the activity. Bingo is in development. It’s not just fun and games, it’s meant to engage people who otherwise may not be interested in amateur radio contesting by visualizing the real-time contest standings through the game. McGrane says recording the points data in real time is an important aspect of modern contesting. “I’ve done a state QSO party, and you don’t know what the results are, whether you won, whether you placed, where you placed, for sometimes a month.” With many digital natives accustomed to instant gratification, the gamification schemes make radio contesting appealing to a younger generation.

McGrane presented his experiences in the forum Gaming The Amateur Radio Digital Modes at the 2024 ARRL National Convention, hosted by Dayton Hamvention®. A video of the presentation is available on the @ARRLHQ YouTube channel as part of the 2024 National Convention Playlist.



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