Our oceans are in distress. Numerous issues plague the vast body of water that stretches over 70 per cent of this planet. From acidification of the oceans (as it absorbs more and more CO2) to sheer decimation of ocean ecosystem due to industrial fishing; human waste like plastic being indiscriminately dumped, and so on. There are numerous scientists and international bodies that are working on the subject of ocean waste, trying to figure out a solution. But one of the most critical aspects of the solution is to involve the common man, the one whose discarded plastic bag actually lands in the ocean garbage patch. Now how can we do that?
Well, there is a company could Dropledge that is trying to achieve that inclusivity by having the person pick up the plastic bag from the ocean — albeit virtually. Dropledge is a social venture that has created a game called Ocean Hereos, where players are sensitized about plastic pollution through gameplay. Launched recently on Google Playstore, the game has got some positive reviews. In an exclusive interaction with Shashwat DC, the founder of Dropledge, Sonia D’Souza Bhavsar dwelt on the different aspects of the Ocean Heroes game and how gamification can be an approach to dealing with social issues. Excerpt.
What lead to the genesis of Ocean Heroes games?
We at Dropledge aim at targeting issues which are plaguing the society and environment and can cause irreversible damage. Instead of just awareness, inducing people to take action about plastic pollution is one of the areas we are focussing on. Living oceans absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and reduce climate change impacts. The diversity and productivity of the world’s oceans is a vital interest for humankind. Our security, our economy, our very survival all require healthy oceans. However, because of the plastic in the oceans – More than 1 million marine animals are killed annually. At least 8 million tons of plastic enter the oceans each year. That’s similar to emptying 1 garbage truck of plastic into an ocean every minute. Plastic pollution has reached such shocking levels that the Human Body is now absorbing chemicals, causing harmful human health effects.
Looking at the severity of the issue, we need to come together & collectively put efforts together in bringing the change. Technology today is that we use more than anything else today in our daily life —the device in your hand; Smartphone. A modern human spends hours on his mobile phone every day – unaware of the amount of Stimuli that they keep subconsciously feeding themselves with. And nowhere is our subconsciousness more in play than in video games, irrespective of the age of the players- It’s fun, entertaining, satisfying. This entire idea led to the creation of the Oceans Hero game.
How long did the game take to produce?
It’s been a year along to bring our thoughts, passion for the cause, research & resources into action.
What has been the response to the game? Downloads, etc.
The overall response has been encouraging & positive. Since we launched on 21 Jan 2020 on Google PlayStore, as of date, we have 50.83K downloads and about 71 reviews with an average of 4.80 stars. People are liking the concept and the idea we are trying to communicate through this game – most importantly, the fact that this game appeals to audience irrespective of the age brackets. We are incredibly delighted to see such a response from the users as its reaching the objective of sensitizing and creating awareness about plastic pollution in oceans.
What is the kind of research that went into the creation of this game? For instance, how were the fish in different oceans characterized? Or information provided at different levels?
We have used scientific research & analysis to understand the origin of these issues, existing state, the efforts taken & the missing gaps. Using these insights, we have crafted an experience which can result in a change in behaviour without the user, even realizing the shift. This stimulates and influences users at the right intersection/s to trigger the intended mindsets, behaviour and actions. This technology solution not only entertains players but are also able to bring in awareness, engagement & real actions in ‘larger numbers’ towards the causes.
India accounts for 60 per cent of plastic waste dumped into the world’s oceans every year. Why hasn’t that been highlighted strongly in the game?
We are looking at a collective impact and sensitization on a global level. Singling out any one geography will never serve the purpose of amplifying the impact we are looking at and will not be possible in achieving our objective. In terms of awareness yes we have five plastic patches in the ocean in the game for players to choose from to begin their game, one of the patches is in the Indian Ocean.
What would you say is the objective of this game? And how is it achieved through the different levels
The most important aim of this game is to sensitize users and make them aware of the evils of plastic and the harm it is causing to our oceans. It not just stops at creating awareness but also creates an experience of making a difference and enables physical changes in the form of
- Taking pledges which results in real actions
- Opting for substitutes than using harmful products
- By supporting NGOs working towards this cause
In Ocean Heroes – Make Ocean Plastic Free, the player partners with 5 Ocean heroes characters to reduce plastic from our oceans.
In each of the five garbage patches (that have been formed around the oceans of the world )– throughout the levels in the game – the player not only collects plastic trash but also saves fishes, turtles & other sea animals.
He/she can maximize their score, earn credits & be on top of Google Play Leader board by collecting plastic pollutants (set targets) in minimum time. The more fishes they save, the higher they score.
Throughout the game, the users can take daily pledges & create actions for real to stop the plastic disaster that’s plaguing the planet.
They can also show their support by contributing to our charity partner – SagarShakti.
How can gamification as a strategy be used for raising awareness on pertinent issues?
Yes, we do believe that this approach will help people in understanding the dangers of plastic. Gamification approach can be a key in bringing change in the way people look at current issues.
Technology has a subtle but long-lasting effect on users’ behaviour and attitude through affecting their subconscious. It has been proven by neuroscience, cultural & human behaviour analysts have called out that more than 80% of habits are formed & performed actually by the subconscious & not our conscious decisions. Through gamification approach, we can showcase the actual effects of plastic pollution on marine life and the way it not only degrades the oceanic ecosystem but also has an adverse impact on human beings.
It has been proven that gamification can build up bonds, trust and co-operation. This has also been established through third party research validating more specifically the intention of Dropledge to drive its purpose where we have seen 4.7 times increase in users who have confirmed to ban single-use plastic from their daily lives after interacting with the platform. That’s the power of technology and the combined effect of interactivity and tech we are talking about here.
Are there more games in the offing on similar themes?
At this point, we can say that we are looking at targeting various other environmental and social issues viz. Water Crisis, Women Safety, Brutality against animals, Hungerthe list goes on not just through gamification, but we are looking at creating awareness and empowering these causes through the usage of various other interactive technologies &on-ground activations. Tech landscape changes with each year, based on the new researches, support from multiple partners & new technology, we will move ahead in terms of creating engaging solutions to generate consciousness about these causes.
Dropledge is dubbed as a social-cause based Technology initiative. What is the revenue model?
We are looking at ad-revenue based model along with in-app purchases.
What are the challenges faced by companies like yours in terms of funding, etc.?
One of the biggest challenges for a social cause-based application platform like us is the lack of support from the current ecosystem & the number of restrictions that come along with it as our focus is more on social good than attaining only profitability. This constricted environment also hampers the perceptions of most of the investors support, if not all, as the main objectives are profit-based than balancing the equation for the force for good with the force for growth!
Finally, what are the future projections for Dropledge, how do you wish to take the movement forth?
Issues of global scale cannot be solved with a handful of individuals, and it needs participation from a collective society. With every engagement on our platform, you empower a cause, to enrich lives by signing pledges or taking specific actions against some horrific issues affecting you, our children & all species of our planet. This power comes from every individual!
In the world today, 21 billion hours spent on mobile games, 1 billion users worldwide. Even if we get these billion and another billion next year who will enter gaming world to do one positive act, one habit change, one life saved by each, the scale of that impact will be bigger than ever and will impact positively each and every species who exist on this planet!