Courtesy of the lovely folks at Dizzywood:
In conjunction with Earth Day and Arbor Day, Dizzywood will be announcing a partnership with the Arbor Day Foundation that will allow children to experience environmental lessons in a virtual world — and then see the impact offline in the real world. Here’s how it will work:
Beginning April 22 players in Dizzywood can plant trees in an effort to restore nature and balance to large tracts of forest that have been destroyed by the notorious arch-villain Emperor Withering and his ruthless mining activities. For every virtual tree planted in Dizzywood, a real one will be planted in areas that need them most through a partnership with the Arbor Day Foundation.
Players earn their tree seedlings upon arrival in the world and quickly discover that with help from friends, their trees grow faster. As each tree is planted, players also see the effects on the polluted sky as it slowly begins to clear and notice that the adorable Dizzywood critters are returning to their homes.
Awesome! That’s a nice way to bring moral, empowerment, cause/effect into a virtual world. And, naturally, I’m a HUGE supporter of virtual world story arcs for the tween (and younger) demographic. Puts less pressure for meaning on them, and gives them a backdrop of “drama” to care about when they’re finding a moment without a game goal. Story! Story! Get to be a part of the story!
For places like Dizzywood– a creative bubble of adventure, exploration, and occasional epic– this is a great method of working in the “green” initiative into their user’s tools. Some places, green initiatives feel forced.
Planting a tree (and the associated image) feels like more fun– especially if things continue to happen with the trees (building a treehouse? boo, I forgot, that needs wood… perhaps eco friendly wood? Or adding in animations, like a birds nests, etc). Playing tag in the forest could be fun too.
I suppose, things like this should have meaning beyond the message. Messages are short– pass in one ear and out the other. If you give meaning that connects to individuals, the collaboration with that project has a longer life span.
Here’s how I look at it?
Honestly– is your initiative has a momentary connection (“charity”) or a user-needed connection (“action/time”)? After you sort that part, then treat it accordingly and smartly. Giving coins for a cause (“Club Penguin”) was successful because they didn’t ask for any more of your time than what they needed– donate to support. To make it live and get exciting, they built a bit of celebratory fanfair around it, and dedicated some time to congratulate (positive reinforcement) the users for rockin’ it (which makes them want more reinforcement). With Dizzywood, they have chosen a path that requires action/time. Planting can be a phenomenon to kids– the ability to put something small in the ground, pay attention to it, and it lives and grows? You have to make it exciting with fanfair as well… but the ability to change an environment by empowerment is pretty cool indeed.
It’ll be great to see how/if/when this inspires more avenues & objectives, projects & learnings, coolness & exploration– not just for Dizzywood’s awesomeness, but for other virtual worlds as well.