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Gaming and Biodiversity Conservation

Computer games are a vast business (worth $40 billion worldwide in 2010), and millions of people (men and women, boys and girls) play digital games every day. What significance do they have for conservation?

  • How will digital games affect the way we think about and interact with nature (and conservation challenges) in the real world?
  • What stories do online games tell about our relationship with nature? Can nature or conservation be represented in computer games in exciting and true ways?
  • Could "serious games" contribute to conservation, and if so how?

These questions were addressed in a project Videogames and Biodiversity Conservation: Assessing the Potential in 2011. This was a collaboration between Bill Adams (Department of Geography), Chris Sandbrook (UNEP-World Conservation Monitoring Centre) and Bruno Monteferri (now with SPDA, the Peruvian Society for Environmental Law, then a recent graduate of the MPhil in Conservation Leadership at Cambridge). A grant from the Cambridge Conservation Initiative funded two events in November 2011 to discuss the opportunities and implications of using games for nature conservation purposes.

The project led to a Games for Nature website, and a paper in the journal Conservation Letters in 2014, Digital Games in Conservation (doi:10.1111/conl.12113 ).

In 2014, new funding from the ESRC Impact Acceleration Account Impact Acceleration Fund supported a project to explore the role of gaming in the dissemination of social science research. Peter Damerell [] is leading work with a newly developed a new game concept ‘Race the Wild‘. This links personal exercise apps to the movements of wild animals.

The project is working closely with the Kenyan NGO Space for Giants, founded by Dr. Max Graham. Space for Giants grew out of a Darwin Project in the Department on human-elephant conflict in Kenya.

We describe the work of the new project on the blog socialsciencegaming.