Save the Park Gamifies Education on National Park Conservation Efforts
Yellowstone National Park is one of the most popular of the nation’s 409 national parks, drawing visitors from across the country and around the world. But not everyone who visits Yellowstone understands the wildlife that make these parks home. Recently, two well-meaning tourists driving through Yellowstone came upon a baby bison standing in the middle of the road. Fearing that the calf was cold and at risk of dying from exposure, they packed the bison into their SUV and drove it to a ranger station seeking help, according to Time. That was a mistake.
Park rangers tried to reunite the calf with its herd, but the herd rejected it due to its contact with humans. Unable to rejoin the herd, the calf instead sought out more human contact by positioning itself in the middle of the road. Rangers had no choice but to euthanize the calf due to the danger it posed, Time explained. While the calf’s death is tragic, the circumstances leading to this outcome expose the lack of understanding that many people have about park wildlife. A new conservation endeavor is using games to fill the gaps in conservation education.
Games for Change has developed a game that aims to engage people with the workings of national parks. In the game, “Save the Park,” players must complete activities that help support a national park. Players control two characters, a park volunteer and a Junior Ranger. The two characters must work together accomplish tasks that conserve the park. As players progress through the game, they can reveal Easter Eggs that unlock shareable digital postcards of National Parks. Players are also presented real-life opportunities to volunteer.
Multiple parties came together to develop Save the Park. American Express asked Games for Change to create a game recognizing park volunteers, Save the Park President Susanna Pollack told Forbes. Games for Change brought in Schell Games to develop it. American Express funded the endeavor with a $250,000 grant, part of a multi-year, $5 million commitment with the Department of Interior to increase volunteer efforts at national parks.
Save the Park comes too late to avert the circumstances leading to the baby bison’s death. But as awareness of the game grows, more people will learn what is appropriate conduct in our national parks. The developers of the game aim to recruit one million volunteers each year by 2017. Save the Park is doing its part to reach that recruitment target with each game played.
Image credit: Wikipedia