Gaming for Good - Developing a Video Game to Combat Deforestation

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Fighting deforestation, one videogame at a time

As I get older and the years go by faster I have to force myself to do new things or the years will feel more like months. However, the best way to sum up working at the Shapiro Design Lab is trying something new and it has been just what the doctor ordered in terms of slowing down my perceived speed of my lived experience. Working at the Design Lab has allowed me to do “something new” on at least 3 different levels:

  1. Learning how to do new skills
  2. Working as a “librarian” assistant
  3. Cutting edge technology and topics

More than anything, working at the Design Lab is like a renaissance man/woman bootcamp. There is no drill sergeant yelling down your throat, but there is a renaissance person that ensures you are experienced in 3D printing, vinyl cutting, sewing machines,  soldering, audio editing, and a myriad of other skills by the time you are done.

In addition to the new skills, part of the novelty was working in the library as a Design Lab Resident. The concept of design had been entirely foreign to me outside of experimental design for research and a year long workshop series at the University of Michigan called Innovation in Action. However, in this new role as a Resident, I was able to read about and constantly practice design. I learned the most from simple projects like creating vinyl stickers for our indie video game design studio’s logo and 3D printing Dungeons and Dragons figurines as thank-you gifts. These smaller projects were a nice complement to the slow, unrewarding design process that is creating a video game, which I grinded away at for at least 5 hours a week over the past two semesters.

I never would have guessed I would be working in a library. Working as a resident of the library has opened my eyes to how much I share in common with librarians who like myself want to encourage the dissemination of information as well as culture, science, and truthful exploration of information.

Unlike the traditional librarian stereotype of a bookworm who likes it to be quiet for reading, the Design Lab and the rest of the Shapiro Library breaks that oversimplification into a million pieces. The Design Lab is a place where new technologies like 3D printing and virtual reality gaming are the centerpiece. It's hard to imagine books ever becoming anything less than one of the main pillars of human knowledge, but why not engage with newer forms of media as beacons of knowledge too, especially when their heavy use and misuse in the entertainment industry shortens our attention span and tolerance for anything that is not exactly what we want. Despite the entertainment industry using and abusing these forms of media for our amusement and their profit, there is no denying that any human creation has as much intellectual value as the author puts into it. No stereotypes about the value of the media content should bias us from never experiencing them. That is as heinous as assuming I am stubborn and quick-tempered because I am Greek. Well, I guess that is a bad example since it is true but I think you know what I mean.

In collaboration with a indie video game studio, Abaca Games, we are creating wholesome games that give back without compromising the art of a game you just can’t put down. Having the shelter and collaborative environment of the Design Lab and its staff (who have so kindly given pivotal feedback on our first game, 10 Degrees) has been essential for us. We are slowing growing into a more serious indie video game studio, thanks to the Design Lab Residency and this experience has inspired me to continue Abaca Games for as long as I can convince others to join me in creating games that give back. Abaca Games is approaching the early release 10 Degrees, pictured here.