Learning About the Environment Through Gaming

Screenshot of Algae Bloom Dynamics game

Eco Resilience Games, a transdisciplinary group of faculty and students who are passionate about the environment, have released the first augmented reality (AR) game focusing on the growing issue of harmful algae blooms. 

Algae Bloom Dynamics uses AR technology to create a photo-realistic, lake-island aquatic ecosystem where users walk around the immersive habitat to discover information that can help find solutions to the human behaviors and environmental factors that cause harmful algae blooms. 

Users point their mobile device at the augmented reality in front of them and walk around the island as if immersed in an interactive sculpture complete with originally composed music and sound, clicking on items to gain information. Moving their phone or tablet below the water line, users find themselves with the fish, zooplankton, and phytoplankton in a crystal-clear, freshwater environment. But when the water becomes green from an algae bloom, players must uncover the source of the problem and find and implement a solution to return the ecosystem to a healthy state.

“Algae blooms are an increasing threat to aquatic ecosystems globally,” says Kathleen Ruiz, director of Eco Resilience Games. Ruiz is also an associate professor and one of the co-founders of the Games and Simulation Arts and Sciences program. “With Algae Bloom Dynamics, we’re using advanced game technology to create a virtual world that inspires us to preserve our actual world.”

The game is designed for users aged 4 years and older and Ruiz hopes that it will “enable people of all ages to learn about ecological issues and climate change in an immersive and visceral way that can help them understand the vital need to work together globally for a sustainable future.”