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Can mobile games reconnect us to and teach us about nature?

I know what you’re thinking – how on EARTH could mobile games do anything to improve our relationship with nature? The very thing which has made us more disconnected than ever to the outside world? The thing which has this generation of kids preferring to remain locked indoors, rain or shine, rather than frolicking in fields of wheat like Theresa May’s good aul’ days. However, this very fixation is what gaming companies, such as Wildchain, are cleverly using to their advantage. There are over 2.2 billion mobile gamers worldwide; games are becoming increasingly exciting, captivating, and technologically impressive so there is little sign of their popularity slowing. With that in mind, to quote a common turn of phrase, “if you can’t beat them, join them”! 

A reconnection in an unlikely place:

It’s predicted that by 2050 two-thirds of the world’s population will live in urban areas. That’s approximately 7 billion people who will have limited or no direct contact with the natural world! For those of you reading who live in rural areas or at least towns or cities surrounded by green spaces, this probably seems unfathomable. However, in the UK, The National Trust reported back in 2012 that 11–15-year-olds spend about half their waking lives in front of a screen! This is the equivalent of 7.5 hours a day; an increase of 40% over the past decade, imagine what it’s like today in 2021!? In the US, most children spend less than 30 minutes outdoors a day and even less time in “natural places” like forests, parks, lakesides, or beaches.

Children and adults alike are suffering from a novel phenomenon known as “Nature-Deficit Disorder. This disorder signifies the devastating broken connection between people and the natural world. 

Mobile apps are using various means of ICT to bring the natural world right into people’s homes; the Wildchain development team engages in in-depth conservation research acquiring hundreds of images and up-to-date information to create detailed avatars and habitats. 

Can mobile games actually be educational? 

Certainly, there are a number of successful mobile games which boast colorful animations and unignorable sound effects aimed at engaging young children about subjects that would otherwise be boring. However, can mobile games go beyond “child’s play”? Could they become an educational tool for all ages to learn about environmentalism?

It’s clear from the popularity of the mobile gaming industry that their developers are doing something right in grabbing people’s attention; the industry has risen by 12% from 2019 to 2020. One paper amusingly titled “Why Conservationists Should Heed Pokémon” found that children aged 8 and older identified Pokemon ‘species’ substantially better than organisms such as oak trees or badgers. So, what are game developers doing that conservationists are not?  

For most of us, when a subject is connected with “fun” or “play”, the information from it enters our neuropathways more freely and with less stress (less stress, more success!). This means knowledge enters our brains unconsciously through the “system 1” of the brain (unconscious thinking). This means the learner needn’t force-feed their brain! As a result, it creates a positive association with the information, no longer deemed to be a drag.

Does Wildchain fit the bill?

Wildchain teaches gamers about wildlife – the game provides animal facts based on real-world data. Info ranges from endangerment status, preferred habitats, and even common personality traits!

Furthermore, Wildchain educates its users about the three key elements of successful conservation (a framework followed by many global conservation agencies); science, defense, and raising awareness! It does this by allowing players to work with environmental biologists, acquire activists to fight the good fight and hire rangers to protect against poaching. More importantly however, the game teaches vital life lessons about morality, ethics and patience by not playing into the instant culture of other mobile gameplay.

We hope you’ll give digital conservation a try with Wildchain – educating yourself without realizing and having fun, is there a better way?

References

  1. Balmford et al., (2002) “Why Conservationists Should Heed Pokémon. Science.
  2. Briggs (2016) “All you need to know about nature deficit disorder”. BBC.
  3. Business of Apps (2021) “Mobile gaming industry statistics and trends for 2021”.
  4. Frey et al. (2017) “Wild Animals in Daily Life”. ICIS.
  5. Moss, S. (2012) “Natural Childhood”. The National Trust.
  6. Tay et al., (2016) “Systems 1 and 2 thinking processes and cognitive reflection testing in medical students”. Canadian Medical Education Journal.