New online community 'Wild Eyes' aims to get children more connected with nature
Kiwi kids all over the country will be getting a breath of fresh air thanks to a new game launched earlier this month.
Wild Eyes is an online community offering nature missions for kiwi kids, aged between 8 and 12.
The challenges include faking the discovery of a giant moa, building a backyard bivouac and hosting a Kawakawa tea party.
Once a child completes a challenge they upload a photo to a website in exchange for online incentives, such as emojis and 'likes' from other 'wildlings'.
Wellington-based game developers Paul Ward and Vicky Pope aim to mimic the rewards from social media sites with a safe, homegrown product.
"It's about speaking to digital natives on their own terms," Ward says.
He believes children today are growing up differently to previous generations, due to the impacts of technology.
"There is a real risk of disconnect with nature".
Ward says there are both mental and physical health benefits of getting outdoors.
There is also a future environmental benefit for children to connect with nature, he says.
"There's a quote by David Attenborough, 'people will only protect what they care about'," he says.
"If we don't connect our tamariki with [nature] … there'll be a whole lot of implications going forward."
Each photo uploaded is evidence of behaviour change, he says. "It's homework kids want to do."
Ward drew on his childhood experience with video games to channel their "seductive power" into Wild Eyes.
The difference with Wild Eyes is although activities are logged online, most of the game play happens in the real world.
"Rather than telling the kids off for being on screen, we use those screen tools to engage with the environment," Ward says.
There have already been "hundreds" of kids who have signed up.
The challenges are explained in a series of videos hosted by Nova Waretini-Hewison and Christian Dennison, twin-brother of Hunt for the Wilderpeople's Julian Dennison.
Christian says his favourite challenge is challenge is one called 'DIY cave'.
"We built a cave in a click-clack container and put sugar cubes inside modelling clay with hot water," he says.
The aim of this challenge is to replicate how caves are formed in nature. He liked that the activities were based on a points system.
"It's more fun because it's a competition."
Although Christian has not tried all of the challenges yet, he would definitely like to try more. "They look real fun".
* For more information and to join the wildlings visit wildeyes.co.nz.