Into the Forest: Bridging Art, Science, and Gaming for Environmental Education

"Into the Forest"—an immersive computer game, is unveiled as a part of the Wald exhibition at the Natural History Museum in Kassel.  This captivating experience emerged from the Ecoquest workshop, a dynamic collaboration between the University of Kassel, documenta Institut, and the Natural History Museum in September 2023.

 

As we step into an era where almost half of the global population, including a diverse demographic in Germany with an average age of 38, engages with video games, we pose a crucial question: Can gaming serve as a platform for promoting awareness about environmental problems and their solutions in a more engaging and less didactic manner, avoiding excessive moralization and potential off-putting effects?

 

A 5-days intensive workshop was conceived and organized by Prof. Mi You und Yulia Gromova of the Art and Economies Department of Uni Kassel/documenta Institute. During the workshop participants gained insight into current artistic research on forests and  learned  how to craft captivating narratives using cutting-edge technologies like photogrammetry, remote sensing data, and 3D scanning. Under advice from Naturkundemuseum Kassel's director, Prof. Dr. Kai Füldner, along with multimedia artist Artem Konevskih and Dr. Tamara Bodden, participants undertook a research trip to the local forest. During this expedition, they actively gathered both data and narratives, enriching their understanding of the subject matter. The group was also joined by Marine Lemarié and Nicolas Stephan from Distant Realities,  who work on prototyping  a carbon sink modeling software,  based on publicly available remote sensing and carbon data.

Into the Forest—a game, produced during the workshop, is  currently showcased at the Natural History Museum as part of the Wald exhibition. In this game, players navigate through a forest embodying one of three non-human characters—a maple seed, a bark beetle, or an acorn—before encountering one of the three mini-games. With user-friendly controls that encourage exploration of the miniature forest, the mini-games provide extra insights into forest ecosystems.

The project is now taken into the next level as part of the SDG+ Campus Challenge.  In the challenge, the department Arts and Economies of documenta Institut, invite teachers, students, civil society, companies and civic initiatives to join forces to design a game that will address the pressing issue of deforestation in the region of Hesse, by blending environmental awareness with economic strategy. Our objective is to create an economic game that goes beyond traditional resource management by emphasizing the delicate balance between growth and sustainability. The central focus will revolve around players striving to achieve equilibrium rather than unlimited expansion.

Although the Campus Challenge has already started as part of the Eröffnungs Festival by SDG+lab, you can still become a part of our team! To join, kindly send an email to yulia.gromova@uni-kassel.de.

Further information on the special forest exhibition at https://www.kassel.de/einrichtungen/naturkundemuseum/ausstellungen/sonderausstellung.php

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