80 per cent of Australian children between five and 17 years old own a screen-based device (with most owning at least three devices). Our lives are linked inextricably with technology, and it’s not going anywhere. We need to work with these tools and use them to steer people outside. In my working life, I often meet people who tell me their love of nature was first piqued by a figure like David Attenborough or Jane Goodall on television – which is much the same thing.
Gamification offers a compelling way to achieve this. It’s something I’ve experimented with for my 25zero project, which allowed people anywhere in the world to virtually ‘climb’ alongside me by tracking elevation on their smartphones.
On a large scale, the release of augmented reality game Pokémon Go in 2016 functioned similarly, encouraging players to explore their surroundings. A systematic review of studies looking at the impact of the game concluded it had a “very positive effect on physical activity, including an increased number of steps walked or jogged, distance travelled and time spent on physical activity.” As well as “improved wellbeing and emotions, increased motivation for being outdoors, being socially and physically active, reduced psychological distress, and improved cognitive performance.”
It’s a matter of using these tools to our advantage, rather than arguing against them until we’re blue in the face.