Can a social action gaming app get more people growing their own food?

This mobile app aims to promote sustainable practices by merging "physical and digital worlds organically," connecting real-world activities to in-game play in order to teach people how to grow food.

No matter how much time you spend farming virtually on Farmville, unless you put some actual seeds in the soil and begin trying to grow a garden and tend it in real life for a couple of seasons, you won't get to be a better gardener. And no matter how many virtual garden planners you try out, or how many seed and gardening tool catalogs you have bookmarked, or how many high-tech growing devices you drool over, if you aren't getting out there and learning from another gardener who has more experience than you, your growing skills won't improve as fast as they would with that connection.

Modern technology, specifically mobile devices and apps, often takes a lot of heat in some circles because of how easily it can distract us from what's happening around us in the physical world, and how it can serve to isolate us, both from the natural world and from other people near us. While gadgets in and of themselves aren't the problem, the obsessive attention paid to them by some people (which we all might soon be witnessing at our upcoming holiday gatherings) is anything but healthy or balanced, and borders on addiction.

The mobile app Seeds The Game, currently under development, could help shift the way we use mobile technology, by combining gaming, social interactions, and a virtual learning environment, and bridging the divide between the digital and physical worlds. By leveraging the existing smartphone and app habit, and connecting real-life gardening challenges with in-game play, Grow Games Interactive aims to help people learn to grow food and get more involved in their local food communities.

"Physical challenges expand skill and capacity from growing a plant to maintaining a garden while learning about soil health, climate and composting. Players who collect seed points can redeem for real prizes including growing supplies for home or school play." - Seeds The Game

The Seeds The Game project isn't just an app, but also includes something they call Jams, where players connect with other local players "to form or join teams and clubs to design, garden, and play together" as well as to further develop and extend the game through hackathon-type activities.

According to Grow Games Interactive, some of the elements of the game include:

  • Taking photos of your plants at home to share your activities in your real garden.
  • Finding neighbors to trade seeds with and share gardening and local food system activities with

  • Getting climate and map updates for weather patterns relevant to your local garden

  • Earning Seed points, which can be redeemed for real prizes such as seeds and gardening equipment coupons

  • Learning to grow your own food by adopting sustainable gardening and permaculture practices at home

Seeds The Game is still in the alpha stage, but according to the developers, the "playtesters" of the games have saved an average of $100 over the last year in food costs with the app, and by making further connections with the local food growing community, it has the potential to increase the social impacts of gardening.

In addition to the social play and learning aspects of Seeds The Game for individuals, the resource and data mapping aspect of the project could also help build resilience in communities by documenting local food systems, sharing solutions to pest and climate challenges with other communities, implementing specific actions in the game that target local needs, or adding game elements and activities to address specific challenges.

Currently, Grow Games Interactive is running a crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo to help bring Seeds The Game to the world, and all backers that pledge $5 or more will receive beta access, and those pledging $13 will also get a free download of the album "Beats to Bite Beets by," a limited edition music jam. Find out more at Seeds The Game.

Tags: Apps | Games | Gardening

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