Tevi: a mobile game for natural awareness

I was detached from my job at the Université of Versailles Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines from July 2018 to April 2019. During that period, I was working at Falmouth University (United Kingdom) at the MetaMakers Institute, an EraNet Chair research project (EU funded). I was given a lot of freedom, so I launched a research project called Tevi.

One of the outputs of the project was a prototype of a mobile game also called Tevi, presented in the video below:

Tevi is a mobile video game designed to increase nature awareness.
Nature awareness can be defined as a person’s ecological knowledge and awareness of the form and features of their local environment.  Tevi has been created in partnership with the Eden Project (full credits in the video description). It uses interactive evolutionary computation to simulate a garden.

We were seeking to raise awareness of young adults on nature, botanical and conservational issues. The aim was to create a game matching 18-25 years old interests, especially those with low interest in nature.

We were focusing on the following research goals:

  • Explore the possibilities of increasing nature awareness through video games, with a focus on how people relate to nature.
  • Develop new gameplay mechanics to create meaningful interactions with the environment.
  • Experiment procedural content generation (PCG) for the creation and representation of natural elements and their evolution in real-time 3D video games.
  • Measuring the impact of a video game in the development of a target audience in a cultural and educational site.

We wanted to know whether a gardening mobile game could effectively promote nature awareness. 

Playtest of Tevi during EGX Rezzed in London, Leftfield Collection ( 4th to 6th of April 2019), picture by Giovanni Rubino

The prototype has not been updated in a while so even if it’s still in the stores it is not working properly anymore.

At the moment, I feel that there are many things I would like to change about the game, even though we had positive feedback from the players. These changes are the result of the distance from the creation process that time gives, from reading interesting papers, from the playtests we conducted, and from analyzing this prototype for a research paper I wrote with Dr Rory Summerley, Giovanni Rubino, and Tim Phillips (Virtual gardening: Identifying problems and potential directions for ‘ecological awareness’ through soil management and plant recognition gaming).

I am especially questioning the narrative (Mars conquest) and the choice of exotic plants as being colonialistic and not as benefic as could be in a domestic setting. More on that soon!

Current research projects on video games and natural heritage

Screenshot of the videogame Tevi

I am currently working on three research projects:

  • Tevi: a mobile video game for nature awareness,
  • Vestigia: a set of video games around the natural and cultural heritage of Port-Royal des Champs,
  • Biosys: a videogame focusing on the relationship between humans and nature.

Tevi and Vestigia are projects I develop in a team with research-creation and user-research methods. It means I am both designing, developing games on these projects, and analyzing their reception on players.

Biosys is very different as I didn’t participate in the game creation. It was a commercial game released in 1999. I am studying it from an external perspective, using a method called “poïetics”. The principle of this method is to focus on the creation process of an art piece, rather than analysing the result only.

In this blog, I will discuss these projects and their evolution, as well as the underlying theory and the literature review associated with the topic of video games and natural heritage.

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