Updated: Jun 29, 2022
SEA-UNICORN co-sponsored the creation of a fun maze-based video game with an educational twist inspired by retro classic Pac-Man to help people understand the importance of movement in the ocean and marine interconnectivity, plus the impacts of human activity on the ability of marine species to move, survive and reproduce.
Called 'Maze of Misfortune', the game was developed by Manchester-based games specialist Bare Knuckle Development with the help of University of Essex researchers (including Dr Anna Sturrock, co-leader of SEA-UNICORN's WG1) and will be launched at the Royal Society Summer Science Exhibition 2022 with the game forming part of the Ocean Travellers exhibit.
In the game, you can play as Sammy the Salmon, Tilly the Sea Turtle, and Nora the Narwhal to help these ocean travellers navigate the ‘Maze of Misfortune’ and reach their breeding grounds. Players have to answer questions to open blocked paths and learn about the dangers these amazing creatures face every day while escaping enemies that represent real world hazards; from invasive species, to discarded plastic, to ship collisions. You might also have to survive random events such as storms and heat waves, while eating as much food as you can to get a high score and a place on the leader board. The team hopes players will learn about the creatures as they play, their lifecycles and habitat need, the dangers they face, and the damage that humans are causing to the world around them.
Dr Anna Sturrock, from the University of Essex, who is also co-leader of SEA-UNICORN’s Working Group 1, said: “Our primary goal was to raise awareness of the many perils that migratory animals face – particularly among younger people (8+ yr olds) that will play a critical role in protecting marine and freshwater ecosystems in the future".
With the exception of Nora the Narwhal, which represents the totem animal of the SEA-UNICORN Action, the heroes of the game are not specified to species level, as the team wanted to emphasize the variety of stressors that different salmon and turtle species encounter. Similarly, many of the questions in the third level focus on general whale ecology given how important they are at a global level. The team also wanted to cover a range of habitats and latitudes, covering temperate systems and river spawning grounds for salmon, tropical systems and beach nesting habitats for sea turtles, and polar systems and pelagic breeding grounds for the narwhal.
The Royal Society Summer Science Exhibition attracts around 13,000 visitors each year, so is an excellent opportunity for public outreach. The multidisciplinary Ocean Travellers team has developed various interactive displays, highlighting the importance of movement and the impacts that human activities are having on individuals and ecosystems. The exhibit contains three ‘worlds’ ('micro', 'meso' and 'macro') which explore movements at the micron scale, such as the loss of dinoflagellates from corals during bleaching events, to the transoceanic migrations of whales that connect the tropics to the poles. The game will be showcased in the 'macro' section, which emphasises the importance of long-distance movements and the vulnerability of large migratory species to global change.
Download the game onto your PC or android phone via this link or QR code!