I’ve always been fascinated by Evolution (enough to earn a Master of Science degree in Biology). It is amazing how the simplest rules can be found at the basis of such a complex and intricate process. Understanding evolution provides a distinctive view of the world and on how important it is to preserve the variation we see in nature. Today’s children have the power to change the world someday, as leaders and members of tomorrow’s society. Using technology as an accessible tool to shape minds and hearts is the essence of Tech for Good. I believe that teaching evolution to kids at a young age opens their eyes to the world around them. A world they can understand is a world they can appreciate, connect with, and feel they belong in.

What it does

Kiwi Monsters is an interactive adventure game. In it, you will embark on a mission to planet Fruit-O and study the ecology and evolution of the monsters. Evolvobot (the voice of Alexa) will guide you on your mission by presenting you with possible choices along the way. You will decide which group to follow — for instance, the group that burrows into the ground or the one that hides in caves. Throughout the game, the Kiwi Monsters will evolve. They might grow wings, fins or even hammers on their heads! Expect funny sound effects that make you feel as if you are right there with the monsters. At the end of each part of your journey, you will interact with the famous scientist Darla Charwin (a fictional character played by a real scientist). She will teach you evolutionary concepts such as Gene Flow, the Founder Effect, and many more. You will also speak with Dr. Janeway (another character), an expert on Natural Selection. The story of the Kiwi Monsters is used to explain examples similar to what had occurred on earth. Whenever possible, Darla highlights current events and challenges we face today as a society that strives to protect fascinating organisms in their habitats.
Children learn better when they’re having fun; this is why I wanted to make this game as entertaining as possible. This game is pure entertainment through which you can learn about science in a fun, imaginative way.

Challenges I ran into

I had to overcome many challenges in creating this game. As an independent creator, I had to manage and learn all aspects of game creation and development. From coming up with the game concept, prototyping and designing, through choosing the development platform (Storyline), writing, sound editing, user testing, and eventually releasing the game. I am lucky to have a supporting community that believes in the purpose and value of Kiwi Monsters. My husband (a microbiologist) pitched in and we stayed up late many nights to develop the game structure and the story skeleton for each step. Friends enlisted for creative content editing and voice acting. Finally, everyone pulled together to push this game to the finish line. This experience has been challenging, but I have enjoyed the process and would not have changed a thing.

Accomplishments that I'm proud of

This is the first game I have created, so that in itself is a great accomplishment. The first version of my game was presented in the Storyline community by its CEO as part of the ‘Show Storyline’ series.
However, seeing or hearing about kids (and parents) enjoying the game has been the greatest accomplishment thus far. I can’t wait for them to try my new version which now gives users an identity they can connect with, and incorporates interesting communication between the user, Evolvobot (Alexa) and two human characters.

What I learned

I have learned so much over the past several months. I learned how to take an innovative idea and, with hard work, create a game that can impact the lives of kids and adults. For many years, my goal has been to combine science with the arts. In this project, I learned how to realize this passion into an actual product I am proud of. This may be a fantasy game, but my highest priority was staying true to the science both in concepts and in how the game simulates evolution. I researched many examples from nature and consulted with other scientists.

What's next for Kiwi Monsters! Evolution Adventure Game

I plan to add more conversations with the Scientist character, Darla Charwin. I will also add more options for users to learn additional scientific information pertaining to scenarios in the game. Also, I plan to utilize Echo Show to add a visually interactive experience with illustrations. It would be great to eventually create a physical product to accompany the Alexa skill.

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