How the virtual world inspires gamers to become botanists

Jun 10, 2024 | News

The virtual world is full of lush vegetation, but gamers spend most of their time indoors. A new seed project is aiming to change that.

“Get out and feel the grass.” This is a cliché often used to encourage gamers to get outside more. It’s a common trope that is often used to encourage gamers to get out more. What if computer games were able to facilitate a tangible and meaningful connection with nature.

Now they can, thanks to a new botany initiative that allows gamers to grow plants from their favorite video game. Hannah Young and Aleks Athanasovski came up with the idea, two gamers who wanted their love of nature to be combined with their passion for video games.

Young says that the skills you learn in the gaming world, such as when you cultivate virtual gardens, can be transferred to the real world. “Alex and myself wanted to bridge that divide.”

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Seed Saga is the result. It’s a botanical pilot which allows players of Guild Wars, a popular roleplaying video game known for its spectacular flora, to apply for seed packets so they can grow the plants featured in the game.

The two pitched the idea to Arena Net, the developer of Guild Wars. Arena Net was “really into it”. The firm was so enthusiastic that it provided renders of the game on the seed packets, and promoted the project on its social media channels.

Due to the limited number of seeds (there are only 30 packs at present, though Young and Atanasovski intend to increase this number), gamers will need to submit an application explaining their reasons for wanting them. Young says that the responses have been encouraging.

Aleks Atanasovski Image: Seed packets sent to gamers for planting

One applicant said: “[Guild Wars] helped me through a deep depression.” It would be a great honour to grow [crimson sunflowers] in my backyard to pay homage and support the insects around that could benefit from the flowers.

Another said: “We can access a garden which has been recently cleared… and it is now empty of flowers but also weeds. It would be great to replant a few, and the video-game aesthetic is a great motivation.

The first seed packets were sent out in April. The idea is to partner up with other players and scale the concept in order to cultivate a whole new generation of botanists. This could improve mental health. Research shows that plants can counteract stress caused by computers.

The crimson sunflower is a fan favorite. Image: Seed Saga

Young and Atanasovski are employed by Wieden+ Kennedy in London. Its clients include Nike and Ford, as well as, more recently, Mother Nature, after it teamed with Agency for Nature, an experimental organisation aimed at harnessing the advertising industry’s talents to “build buzz” for the natural environment.

Agency for Nature worked with top UK agencies and creatives to produce billboards, films books, and user experiences that sell something that cannot be bought: an appreciation for nature.

You can transfer your gaming skills to the real world

Seed Saga was one of the projects it helped fund. Young and Atanasovski also hope that the project will help to combat stereotypes as well as increase appreciation for the natural environment.

Young says that you don’t need to be a hippie to care about the environment. “You can still care about nature if you’re a gamer.”

Main image: Aleks Atanasovski

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