Questagame is fun, easy-to-use, and promotes activity in nature and learning about local wildlife. It’s a free game to load onto your smartphone or tablet, and then take outside on searches for wildlife. It’s designed to engage the younger market, but I think it’s great for kids aged 6 to 60+.
There are lots of ways to play, depending on what you find fun; you can earn rewards for simply spotting and recording wildlife, take on quests to find particular species, or compete against other Questagame players in head-to-head challenges. Over time, the game keeps a record of all the species you’ve recorded, and where you recorded them.
I recently loaded the app onto my phone (I suggest phones are better than tablets as they are easier to take photos with). Then I headed to a local urban park with my six-year-old daughter. We spent an hour or so spotting common birds, reading about them, and recording them. Everything we needed was included in the app, like photos and descriptions to help identify the birds we saw. There were lots of high-fives when we submitted records, and even more when we earned game ‘gold’ for our efforts. We tried a Quest, too, and had to find an Australian magpie and a rainbow lorikeet to earn some bonus points. Needless to say, there were more high-fives when we succeeded!
As a dad it was great, sharing time outdoors with my daughter, and the scientist in me also found it rewarding. You see, sightings that are recorded through Questagame, once verified, are uploaded into the Atlas of Living Australia (the ALA). The photographs you submit with sightings are important because they allow scientists to verify what you saw, an important quality control if they want to use your record as part of their research. The ALA is important as it’s Australia’s repository for information about biodiversity. Scientists in universities, museums, government departments and industry all use the ALA to store and access information about plants, animals, fungi and micro-organisms. At the Discovery Circle, we use the ALA to store records from our BioBlitzes.
If you have kids aged 6 to 15, I suggest you try Questagame one morning or afternoon when you have a couple of hours to play. Mornings or afternoons are good because it’s easier to spot birds early or late in the day, although we did it in the middle of the day and had no trouble. You can try it in your backyard, at an urban park, or travel further afield to some bushland. I suggest you pick somewhere with trees and shrubs, where you’re likely to find some birds quite easily (it’s good to start with some success).
If you don’t have much experience identifying birds, start in your local area with things you commonly see. We started with Australian magpies and rainbow lorikeets, and then moved along to kookaburras and magpie-larks. These birds are found in most built-up areas around Australia, and can therefore be described ‘urban adapters’ (animals that do well in cities). We often see and hear them around Adelaide. It was also exciting to find some musk lorikeets, which we don’t see so often.
Next time we go questing we think we’ll try a different type of park, somewhere with a wetland, like Oaklands Wetland or the Greenfields Wetlands. By trying different types of parks we’ll be able to discuss the links between animals and their habitats.
For now, get gaming, you can find Questagame at the App Store or on Google Play. The free version of Questagame includes: Birds; Moths and Butterflies; Ferns and Fungi; and Locations. My daughter and I have started with birds, which provide a great introduction to wildlife and are easy to find. I hope we’ll play with the other categories in the future. You can also purchase ‘upgrades’, including: Crawling Critters; Mammals, Reptiles and Amphibians; and Buzzing Bugs and Beetles. So if this game engages your kids, there are endless learning opportunities and hours of fun to be had!
One final note: Questagame is GREAT, and can definitely provide some fun and learning in natural environments… it’s great Nature Play. I suggest you should consider it as part of a broader strategy to engage kids with nature. Other important elements of such a strategy are unstructured play, hands-on experiences (like gardening), and experiencing places with no obvious human impacts. I’ll write about them, too… soon!
There’s more information about Questagame online at: www.questagame.com