Monthly Archives: November 2013

Can big screen animation save biodiversity?

Below is a short review of an opinion article appeared that in the scientific journal – Tropical Conservation Science authored by Yong, Fam and Lum (see link below).

They were looking at the effects feature animations like Madagascar, Happy Feet and Finding Nemo could have on conservation efforts; and should NGOs be doing more to establish partnerships with animation studios?

NGOs have acknowledged the importance of social marketing in generating awareness across mass markets. They know these films shed light on issues concerning habitat, species and they can form the starting point of biodiversity and conservation knowledge.

The authours do list a number of criticisms of the films,  arising from the simplistic portrayal of conservation issues, including inaccurate and sensationalized depictions of reality and the negative influence of wildlife trade (eg Jurassic Park lead to a spike in people keeping iguanas).

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There was an increase in demand for clownfish in the pet fish trade after Finding Nemo

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the owl trade in India was linked to Harry Potter movies

While acknowledging these criticisms the authours do believe that these films could have better outcomes for conservation if they were  complimented with good educational and outreach materials. These outreach tools that would need to be created to reach the masses still remain relatively untapped.

So while these popular programs will not solve biodiversity problems, if they are created alongside carefully developed outreach programs they can go a long way to communicating much needed awareness and knowledge of biodiversity science to large audiences.

http://tropicalconservationscience.mongabay.com/content/v4/11-09-25_244-253_Yong_et_al.pdf

At Habitat the Game we are developing a range of outreach materials for teachers, players and parents.

Meet our music composer – Gary Sinclair

What is your role on Habitat?Image
Sound design and music composition

Tell us a little about your background?
Music production/supervision and audio post for all media. At the moment my back ground, like..behind me? there are lots of people making a polar bear do strange things on computers.

What aspects of Habitat are you most excited about?
an intuitive all encompassing feel god fun experience. and helping to create a lovely world to explore and maintain. Also to encourage positive behaviours too

What are some of the challenges that the team has been facing?
creating the emotional sounds of a polar bear.

What are some of the music references you are using for the game?
music references are anything from archived inuit recordings to animals call/response communication systems int heir natural environment. Also current games such as the Journey and Flow. The Mogwai soundtrack for Les Revenants

What kind of feelings/thoughts do you hope the music will evoke?
i only hope that the music and sound helps to creative an overall experience, The emotions of the bear and the game will be determined by the player and how they play the game, i hope the music will reflect this.

What future do you see for Habitat?
cold and icy hopefully, that’s the way the bear likes it

Can kids make a difference?

The making of this game has been an interesting journey. We looked at many options when raising money including government agencies, sponsors, educational entities and broadcasters.

One of the hurdles we hit surprised us. We were asked; Should you be making a game that suggests to kids that they can have an influence on climate change?

One institution said “we have to ask if a game proposing individual action on a problem that can only productively be addressed at the policy level is useful.” While a broadcasters said “the major issue for us is the link (or implied link) between actions in the real world and climate change.” They did not want kids to think they could make a difference on the animal’s habitat they were caring for.

We have always been very clear about why we are making this game and our reasons have not changed.

We want to create a game that is incredibly fun to play but at the same time empower kids and give them information that will make them more resilient and enabling to join the debate.

We know that kids feel incredibly disempowered when it comes to environmental problems and climate change. We are focusing on the individual behaviours that they do feel in control of. They will be able to see how much they can achieve if they work together as a community.

Public support is one of the crucial components needed for policy change and we are aiming to help kids understand basic principles.

Finally we asked Dr Chris Dey at Sydney University did he think Kids could make a difference?

The person behind the concept

We caught up with Habitat’s Producer Kylee Ingram:

Habitat's creator Kylee Ingram

Habitat’s creator Kylee Ingram

How did you come up with the idea for Habitat?

A few years ago ABC TV had a serious game competition. One of our production managers at the time told me about it, we had missed the deadline but the concept left my mind buzzing. The next night I woke up in the middle of the night and wrote up the concept  – adopt a digital pet that is endangered by climate change and change your own behaviours to keep him alive. I pitched it to my colleagues the next day, they loved it and everyone gave us their thoughts. I then submitted it to Content 360 at Cannes and it was nominated as one of best new ideas. We knew we were onto something.

Tell us a little about your background?

I traditionally come from a TV and documentary background. I started out in sports television but I left wanting to create media that was more outcomes focused. In  2003 I started Australian Documentaries to produce stories for the NGO and government sectors communicating social and environmental issues.

What did you find appealing about the Habitat project?

I love the real world cross over. I think that is going to be a dynamic that people explore more and more. I love that we will be creating a game that will empower kids. We have found kids feel disillusioned and worried about environmental problems. We are giving them information and action that they can do to make a difference. Kids will be able to see as individuals and as a collective how much they are saving in terms of energy, water and land. We hope this will be really powerful.

What are some of the challenges that the team has been facing?

Budget is always an issue with these types of project as we are creating a hugely ambitious game. We would like it to be both fun AND educational. Including the real world actions into the game is hard.  We know foremost we need to create a sticky game that kids will want to keep on playing.

Tell us a little about the Team you are working in. They come from a range of backgrounds?

Our team is bringing together people with a diverse range of background from TV, animation, composing, gaming and more. Everyone is really passionate about the project and we have all had a great time working together in house which is new for all of us.

What future do you see for Habitat?

We want habitat to be the most effective environmental game ever launched.

In the second iteration we will have location based services added so kids will be notified when they are near a habitat location. We are inviting NGOs, museums and parks from all over the world to participate. The aim is to get kids playing Habitat in every corner of the earth.

 

Artists joining Habitat the Game

We have asked some of the world’s most well known contemporary artists to submit ideas for an artwork that Habitat Kids will be able to replicate.

These world-renowned artists have gained recognition for creating artworks from recycled and re-purposed materials. They are also great at finding ways to create artworks in the natural environment. We hope the kids will get a kick out of creating the artworks and it will inspire them to see the world through an artist’s lens.

Habitat the Game will reward the kids for replicating the artwork and posting their replications online.

Stay tuned we will announce who the artists are very soon.

If you have an artist you would like to recommend please let us know.

Meet the animators – An interview with Greg Hunsburger

We caught up with Greg Hunsburger who is the 3D Designer on Habitat:

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Tell us a little about your background?
I am 2D designer and 3D animator. I’ve designed and animated exhibition pieces for the Australian Museum and media for the Australian Maritime Museum among other fun and quirky projects. I am a nature enthusiast and natural born explorer.

What do you like about Habitat?
The Bear, the Park and the Heart of the project. It’s exciting to work on a game that puts an important message forward while making something really fun and engaging. The bears are ridiculously cute!

What kind of animation decisions have you been making?
I’ve been across the entirety of the project writing actions scripts and making sure the Bear’s character is really front and center. The decisions that I make are about making these Polar Bears lovable and where the animations all fit within a dynamic narrative. My hope is that Habitat the game is as much about meeting and getting to know the bears as much as playing games with them.

What have been some of the challenges for you?
Redesigning our work pipeline from 3D and 2D animation over to game building has been one kind of challenge. Making game play and reward decisions that stay true to the heart of our game while keeping it a fun experience has been a very cool and altogether new puzzle to solve.

What are elements of the game you have enjoyed building?
I’ve enjoyed designing and building the quirky Achievements and thinking about the way in which real world actions can be dynamically reflected in the game world and game play. When kids see our bear doing a belly flop after taking a trip down our crazy ice-slide they are going to go bananas. When they see the park ravaged by pollution and climate change they are really going to get poked in the feelers.

Tell us a little about the Team you are working in. They come from a range of backgrounds?
The team is full of passion and seems to boil over with ideas and solutions. The team is new to apps but Brian’s experience is helping us navigate the waters with a lot of confidence. We’re a funny, quirky bunch and we all collaborate really well. The heart and soul of the game is something we all believe in, so it’s been a project of passion from the start.

What future do you see for Habitat?
I see Habitat the game expanding into other earthly regions, exploring other animals; all the while making the link back to the player’s home and habits.

I see the brand bringing some really great tools that will help kids and parents understand their ecological footprints and how we can work together to get our planet out of this mess.

Letter to Teachers – Habitat and school curriculum

Sometimes the best way to learn about our earth and the species which inhabit this planet is by experiencing it. While HABITAT is essentially a game, it is more importantly a dynamic learning tool with real implications. A game where schools, classes, teachers and individual students and their families can actively participate in exploring, discovering, learning, acting and bringing about positive environmental change.

HABITAT is attuned to the Australian Science Curriculum for students in years K-6 and thereby asks questions about the world in which we live. It nurtures curiosity, offers inquiry problem solving situations and develops a solid foundation of knowledge that students can apply to real life – in particular their own life.

 

Sustainability is an embedded theme in HABITAT and therefore is relevant to all K-6 learning levels. It provides the platform to ascertain our collective and individual impact on the earth’s sustainability. Importantly HABITAT is a comprehensive educational resource that engenders active and environmentally responsible global citizens while being engaging and fun.

Specifically HABITAT is relevant to the Australian Science Curriculum in the following topics:

‘Years K–2 (typically from 5 to 8 years of age)

Curriculum focus: awareness of self and the local world

Unifying ideas:

  • Exploration
  • Observation
  • Order
  • Change
  • Questioning and speculation

Years 3–6 (typically from 8 to 12 years of age)

Curriculum focus: recognising questions that can be investigated scientifically and investigating them.

Building on the unifying ideas of exploration, observation, order, change, questioning and speculation, the unifying ideas of this age range are:

  • Patterns
  • Systems
  • Relationships
  • Evidence and explanations’

Draft Consultation version 1.1.0 Australian Curriculum

ACARA Australian Curriculum Consultation Portal 14/07/2010 6

Classroom syllabus topics relevant to the curriculum can be applied to the learning of:

  • Threatened species
  • Endangered species
  • Animal physical characteristics
  • Diet and food consumption
  • Behaviour
  • Breeding and population
  • Habitats and needs
  • Geographical regions
  • Environment protection
  • Conservation
  • Sustainability

Authour:

Anne Chesher
Quadrant Productions
Media+Education

Interview with Brian Su – Lead Developer

Brian Su Habitat the Game's Lead Developer

Brian Su Habitat the Game’s Lead Developer

 

What is your role on Habitat?

I’m responsible for developing the Habitat game. I take all the art, music and ideas and translate them to an app.

Tell us a little about your background?

I’ve had a long history of being involved in the creation and coding of a wide variety of games. Prior to becoming involved with educational games, a large part of my work included producing games for PC and console devices. I’ve also worked on projects featuring simulated environments (both urban and natural). It was through working on such simulations that I first got interested in the game engine Unity, and have spent much of my free time over the last three years getting my Unity knowledge from the level of enthusiast to (hopefully close to) expert.

What did you find appealing about the Habitat project?

It is something completely new: a project that deals with ecological issues in real life and introduces them to a younger audience. Plus, I really like polar bears!

Has the integration of the real world actions been difficult?

It has been challenging but interesting to integrate real world actions. It’s never really been done in a game so I have nothing to base it upon and we also don’t know how players will react to it. It’s going to be an interesting experiment and involve a lot of testing and revising.

What are elements of the game you have enjoyed building?

I enjoyed creating the interactive bear because it’s a challenge to create an emotional attachment to a virtual character. I’ve learnt a lot working with the animators about the small nuances needed to create an expressive character.  Another part that was quite interesting was incorporating the reduction metrics into the game and seeing how doing certain real world actions can create an effect on many environmental factors.

Tell us a little about the Team you are working in. They come from a range of backgrounds?

It’s my first time working on a game with a television and post production team. I’ve learnt a lot of new things about design and animation from them and hopefully shown them a lot of things about developing games.

What future do you see for Habitat?

I see Habitat becoming a great tool for kids to learn about the environment in a fun way. I’d like to expand it with new continents, animals and new real world actions.