In my search for news about wetlands, I often come across blogs and internet posts about wetland-themed video games. As a kid, our family did not have a computer until I was 14 and it was an used Commodore 64. It had very few programs. I used it to type school papers and my mother wrote articles for the local paper on it. My brother, Tad, got a copy of the 1980s video game, Frogger, in which players control the path of individual frogs (see http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=okm0VtF2gH8) over busy roads and through a wetland habitat full of predators, e.g. snakes, crocodiles, otters—and safely guide each frog home. Along the way, players must help the frog(s) catch bugs to eat, or escort a “lady frog” for bonus points. Since the ‘80s, there have been several spin-off games, including “Swampy’s Revenge.” I wasn’t very good at using the joystick (moving it sideways through the air doesn’t work or calling out, “look out for the crocodile!” does simply no good. Froggie dies. I was much better at dealing with real live frogs, rather than the virtual kind. For those curious about other wetland-themed video games, check out World of Warcraft: Conquer the Wetlands (for map, see this.) In this game, players fight giant fire-breathing salamanders instead of dragons). Or, a video game possibly based on the British comic character, “Master of the Marsh,” a muscle-bound hermit of the Fens, (for his skills, see this page.) including using “swampy terrain to his advantage over his enemies.”) In the 1995 video game, Wetlands, players act as an underwater/undercover agent and move through a “waterworld,” and shoot their enemies. Why? Because that’s the whole point of first-person shooter video games. Shoot ‘em. Kids not interested in shooter games can still play in a “virtual nature” in many other games, such as “Harvest Moon: Back to Nature” (see this post) in which players plant seeds, build a farm and “search for a mate.” Despite the mate search, it is rated “E” for everyone. That’s strange to me.
Meanwhile, visitation in national parks is still on the decline. Are kids more interested in playing in a virtual wetland, or video game version of “nature” than in a real national park or even their backyard? This article from a few years ago captures this question perfectly: “Nature Vs Nintendo: Video Games or National Parks” (May 2006)http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/05/060509174036.htm
Update: National Geographic “Hooked Reel ‘Em In Game” allows a player to fish in the Amazon, the Mekong River and Deep Seas. Challenging! It took me 20 min to catch a fish, then couldn’t reel it in fast enough, or the line broke. Have patience.http://channel.nationalgeographic.com/channel/hooked-reel-em-in-game
Update: 3/2011 – I had fun playing a new video game by Kinnect Adventures for XBox 360 in which I rode a raft through the rapids, streams and rivers, down waterfalls and jumped over obstacles along the way. In another aspect of the same game, I fixed leaks in a tank as marine life swam around me and hammerhead sharks tried to break in. Lots of fun with realistic aquatic effects. What’s unique about it is that it takes snapshots of your performance along the way! It doesn’t capture the most flattering expressions as you maneuver through tight spots and attempt to make it through obstacles.http://marketplace.xbox.com/en-US/Product/Kinect-Adventures/66acd000-77fe-1000-9115-d8024d5308ed