GreenSpace main island clean

Ever wish you could do some good with your gaming? A new partnership between social and mobile game developer RocketOwl and is turning virtual trees into real ones.

Play2Plant — the Ottawa, Ontario-based company’s tree-planting campaign — allows gamers to make a positive impact on the environment by playing GreenSpace. As SpaceJanitors, players save the galaxy from destruction by cleaning up planets and restoring them to their former beauty. That means sorting through hundreds of years’ worth of garbage and building more sustainable energy sources as well as engaging in traditional social gameplay, such as connecting with friends and customizing environments and avatars.

When players reach certain milestones, RocketOwl will match their efforts by giving them a special edition WeForest tree decoration to place in their world — and planting a tree in real life. Users can also obtain one of these decorations for 10 RocketFuel, the game’s currency, and the developer will plant a tree for every one purchased. Not too shabby for a debut game.

“So often when people try to promote social causes, they try to instill fear or use shock value as motivation to get involved, and people are getting tired of it,” Graeme Barlow, the chief executive officer of RocketOwl, told GamesBeat. “Environmental causes are a really hot topic right now that has everyone talking, but people aren’t necessarily taking the next steps to get involved and make a difference. That’s why we need fun and interactive ways get people involved, like gaming. Let’s be honest, not everyone is going to want to go outside, get dirty, and plant a tree. But spend a few minutes playing a game? That’s something that most people can handle.

“One of the initial milestones is to have players clean the starting set of islands to unlock a tree that will be planted in the real world. We start players off with five really exciting islands that represent some of the renewable technologies that are shown off in GreenSpace. We’re also working hard to build more milestones and triggers into the game to allow players to unlock more trees as they progress. For players that aren’t interested in committing the time, we also have an option that allows them to purchase a tree for $1.99.”

Through crowdsourcing, Play2Plant can enlist the public’s help with tackling environmental issues like deforestation, carbon sequestration, water management, soil restoration, biodiversity, and local economic development. With these kinds of games and initiatives, RocketOwl believes that promoting social change can be fun, increasing the likelihood that people will become more involved in the future.

“We’re addressing social causes through gaming, but it’s really important to our company that we continue to make games that put fun first,” said Barlow. “When players are having fun, everything else comes naturally, and we’re confident that our players are going to make a big difference through the tree planting initiative.”

GreenSpace is on Facebook and the App Store for iPad and is coming soon to Android and Windows 8 in Q4, before Christmas.