From the print edition
With a virtual base camp, a map, binoculars and other adventure tools, children worldwide can now explore the jungles of Costa Rica from their computer desks. Earlier this year, an online game called “The Rainforest Rangers” went live, its content inspired by this country’s critters and landscapes.
“Education is a big purpose of the game,” said developer Erin Anthony. “We hope to give kids an appreciation early on for the jungle and what risks it faces. This game looks to speak to kids who live far away from these tropical places.”
An easy login gives players their own ranger, and they begin exploring a small section of coast where they establish camp. By reading about wildlife and conservation, gamers take quizzes on what they’ve learned to unlock parts of a map to explore deeper into the jungle. As in any good plotline, there is a bad guy – Zardo – who is cutting down trees. It’s the gamers’ mission to stop him.
After moving to Costa Rica three years ago, game founder Jan Dwire said it became apparent to her that the environment is at a tipping point.
“If we don’t work hard to save it, many species are going to disappear,” she said. “‘The Rainforest Rangers’ started out of a desire to help environmental groups such as Friends of Nature of Central and Southern Pacific Coast and the ARA Macaw Project continue their work protecting the Costa Rican rainforest.”
Of the Internet game’s profits, 10 percent will be donated to these organizations and selected Costa Rican schools.
Dwire said the original idea was to create a set of children’s books with “The Rainforest Rangers” content, but it eventually became a game instead. Further inspiration and the construction of the game took place in the developer’s residence in Ojochal, a small community 20 minutes south of Dominical, on the southern Pacific coast.
“There are iguanas running around my front yard as I’m working on this,” Anthony said.
The game entails lots of reading and following directions. A chat room allows kids to talk about their findings in the game. Teachers can create alliances between their classes, and a “teacher’s lounge” helps teachers monitor the activity of students. The game has been used in schools in Costa Rica, Canada and the United States, and it is being marketed to zoos and aquariums.
The game is free to a certain level, where participants will be asked if they want to upgrade to continue playing. Players can play about 25 percent of the game free. After that, playing costs $5.
“I wanted to make something that I would allow my son to play on a school night,” Anthony said, but she didn’t want that to be “just another mindless Internet game.” With “The Rainforest Rangers,” she said, her son can be learning about Costa Rica’s rainforest and giving back all at once.
For more information on the game, visit http://therainforeststrangers.com