David Ng, a biologist at the University of British Columbia, has created an launched a free/open card-trading game that uses Pokemon-style mechanics to teach biodiversity. It's a wonderful concept and it really looks like a great game, too!
Phylo (or if you rather use the preferred term of endearment, Phylomon) is an an online initiative aimed at creating a Pokemon card type resource but with real creatures on display in full "artistic" wonder, and all via a non-commercial-open-access-open-source-because-basically-this-is-good-for-you-your-children-and-your-planet sort of way. This means that it thrives on contributions from folks who are artists, folks who are scientists, folks who like games, folks in the business of educating children, as well as folks of other expertise as various situations arise. Essentially, every step of game development, from imagery to the rulebook(s), is an exercise in crowd sourcing.
On the site, you can even check out the phylo project's origin story. Here, you'll learn that it was essentially inspired by Andrew Balmford, a conservational biologist who in 2002 published a curious paper in Science that showed that children as young as 8 were able to identify and characterize up to 120 different Pokemon characters. Yet, by the time they entered secondary school, they still couldn't identify half of the UK's 100 most common plants and animals. In the paper, Andrew was understandably troubled by this, and simply asked "Why is this?" and "Is there anything we can learn from this?"
In any event, the project has just started off with 12 cards, so that people can get a sense of what the site is all about, but there are plans to roll out new cards at a rate of at least one per weekday starting next week. Anyway, do go check it out, tell others about it, or better yet, get involved. Currently, the two biggest requests is to have more artists submitting their work (drawing and/or photographs), and for gamers to have a crack at a prototype rule set, or to even come up with alternate rules.
Interestingly, there are some who currently estimate there being roughly 1.9 million different species that have been classified by humans. Wouldn't it be cool to have a biodiversity card game with the potential to have that many cards?
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