New Zealand's native blue duck gets its own video game
New Zealand's threatened blue duck is now a video game star.
Ahead of Conservation Week, the Department of Conservation has launched a new online game called Whio Boot Camp.
DOC brand and campaign adviser Daniel Deans said players navigated the challenges of life as a fledgling whio in order to 'make it' in the wild.
"In a style reminiscent of Super Mario, users learn to swim, fly, eat and avoid stoats in order to survive.
"At the end of the game, successful players earn the chance to enter a competition to be a whio ranger for a day – interacting out in the wild with real whio."
Whio is only found in New Zealand and with a population of less than 3000 is classed as nationally vulnerable - one class above endangered.
Deans said the Whio Forever Project team wanted to find a way to spread the message about the plight of whio to the target market in a way that was educational and fun at the same time.
"This year in particular we wanted to develop a game that was genuinely fun and addictive, so that audiences would keep engaging with it over and over and absorb an educational message in the process."
The game was created by Auckland-based developer Dot Dot.
"Dot Dot took the initial ideas and concepts from the Whio Forever team, did some background research into the life of a whio and fleshed it out into a playable game."
In previous years DOC ran a different game called Find a Whio, which involved finding whio hidden on a map of New Zealand.
"This year we wanted to develop something new and more interactive," Deans said.
And the new game was a hit.
"In the two weeks the game has been live, over 5000 individuals have attempted the game, which is fantastic. That's already had a 59 per cent increase in players compared to the whole period we ran the 'Find a Whio' game last year."
DOC worked with Genesis Energy on the game.
Whio Boot Camp can be played on computer or on mobile devices at: www.doc.govt.nz/whiobootcamp