Winner: Student, Honorable Mention
I Wish for an Animal
This is my MDes thesis project at University of Washington that I worked on from Fall2014 to Spring2015. I chose to design a platform that would help with wildlife conservation in Iran and young urbanites that live in the city of Tehran as the target group and also game as a tool for raising awareness.
“I Wish for an animal” is a multi-player mixed-reality game played in 3 days. It consists of a physical component, a model of a city and a virtual component, text messaging. The model that is crafted and located in a center-point, tells the story of a city, a village and the protected area surrounding them. Players enter the city (physically in the model and virtually by text messages) on a mission for 3 days and the goal of the game is saving animals in the protected area.
They need to accomplish missions that are assigned to them moving around the city from one location to another. By succeeding or failing in those missions they affect the city, other players and also the animals in the protected area. The artist is in the center-point and changes the model based on decisions received from players. Scenarios are driven by a strong narrative that is crafted from destinations, times and events and yet supports interactivity through chat, the use of objects, health and dilemmas, all of which can be combined into more complex missions.It was implemented in Tehran in April 2015.
This game will persuade urbanites to pay more attention to the consequences of their choices in daily life on the wildlife and understand the difficulties rural communities need to face responding the demands coming from cities. And at the same time provides a space for conversations about the environmental issues as well as an opportunity for NGOs to talk to their audience in a prepared environment. It reminds that environmental issues are not responsibility of environmentalists but everyone.
The materials I used for the model include plaster, tape, yarn, wood and cardboard. Part of them are now used by the NGO for other partnering projects. The model is flexible, so that it could be designed and crafted based on the location the game is launched. Game master can use local resources appropriate for the project.
There are many direct and indirect stakeholders in wildlife conservation; almost every living creature is reliant on wildlife. From this wide range, I focused on connection between city dwellers and villagers in Iran and the importance of this missing correlation in protecting the wildlife.
I chose game for raising awareness since based on research, volunteers will commit more to volunteering for conservation activities if such activities meet their more pertinent personal and social goals of connecting with and giving back to their communities, , social interacting with other volunteers and defending and enhancing their egos.
sustainability and respect for other communities and of course conserving the environment, then the long-term benefits of incorporating such a project would be economic growth in rural communities and less waste and more cautious consumption in urban communities. For the research phase of this project I was supported by a well-known NGO based in Tehran: Persian Wildlife Heritage Foundation.
This project emphasizes the impact of everyday city life on wildlife extinction and conservation. Urban and rural communities are in a conflict over wildlife conservation and rural communities neglected from every aspect of environmental justice are blamed for the loss. While urbanites are remote from nature and rural life.
“I Wish for an Animal” gathers people around and creates a public sphere where they can discuss and argue and challenge each other about their everyday impact on the environment and other communities. They learn that they need to replace competence with dialogue and cooperation and logical decision-making.
When “I Wish for an Animal” is launched, players need to visit the center-point to register and get instructions. In order to do so, they need to enter their phone numbers and define an ID as well as customizing a statuette as their character in the game. By placing their statuettes in the city and receiving instructions on how to send messages they are ready to play.
The game starts from the day after and lasts for three days. They receive text messages on their phones and proceed in the game by replying to them, making decisions about problems and situations existing in Heemand. They can use nine different commands to play: Go , Find, Pick, Use , Drop, Say, Shout, Update and Leave Heemand (name of the city).
While messages are sent and received between players and the game, the artist is by the model, changing it based on the decisions players make: locations are destructed; players’ statuettes are moved around and tracked by colorful yarns; animals are killed and nailed to the wall; and players die and go to the cemetery. Although players don’t need to be at the center-point to play the game, going back there and being around the model gives them an extra power in the game: there are random information about the future hours of the game that would help them in making wiser decisions; such as big events that are going to happen or the general performance of all the players.
Situations and missions vary from very easy to tough, because in the test-plays I found that understanding the logic of the game and learning the commands takes time and it would take the fun away if the missions were challenging from the beginning. So there are missions as simple as choosing between a cup of tea and a cup of coffee, and also very tough situations like when a serial killer among players decides that fewer humans equals more animals and starts killing other players. And people get caught up in a debate on joining him or eliminating him from the game.