The free title debuts on iOS today, and it’s one more example of how do-gooders are turning to games to get people more engaged with their causes. With a powerhouse like American Express backing the effort with a $250,000 grant, the effort is bound to get more attention. Schell Games made the title.
American Express has pledged $5 million to help the Department of the Interior to get more community volunteers in national parks and public lands. The goal is to hit 1 million volunteers by 2017, and Save the Park encourages people to get involved.
The cartoon-animated game has four characters who accomplish volunteer tasks in three different parks. The game encourages players to learn how they can have an impact on a virtual park with conservation and stewardship efforts. Embedded calls-to-action encourage players to explore real-world volunteer opportunities in national parks. And the game introduces facts about specific national parks to create a greater emotional connection between the player and these places.
It’s an endless runner-style game where players control two characters — a national park volunteer and their Junior Ranger companion, who work together completing volunteer activities that support the parks. Volunteer activities include exploring different terrains to: protect animal habitats, plant trees, maintain trails, collect research specimens, help park visitors, and more. Players who master each volunteer task will unlock new task levels, and gain access to each of the four characters across three park environments — forest, desert and coastline.
“American Express has a long heritage of building community service programs, and we are proud to partner with Games for Change to reimagine volunteer engagement in the digital age,” said Meredith Hahn, vice president of corporate social responsibility at American Express, in a statement. “To inspire and mobilize the next generation of volunteers we need a new set of tools, and we believe ‘Save the Park’ is a ‘virtual’ first step to converting game players into real-world volunteers.”
Revenues from the first 50,000 game downloads will benefit the National Park Foundation. For each of the first 50,000 downloads, the American Express Foundation will donate $1 to the National Park Foundation.
Founded in 2004, Games for Change is a nonprofit dedicated to the creation and distribution of social impact games that serve humanitarian, social and educational efforts.
“Games for Change shares an affinity with American Express in the importance of gaming in the advancement of society,” said Susanna Pollack, president of Games for Change, in a statement. “Through our partnership, we are excited to mobilize a new generation of volunteers to preserve and revitalize America’s treasured natural parks.”
The parks certainly need the help.
“Volunteering is one of the best ways to get up, get out, and find your park,” said National Park Service Director Jonathan B. Jarvis, in a statement. “With more than 400 parks across the country that protect and preserve America’s landscapes, culture and history, we can’t do it alone, and volunteers serve important roles in many of our national parks.”
Schell Games, headed by Jesse Schell, is an education-focused developer that has produced games for PBS Kids, the Fred Rogers Company, and Walt Disney, among others.