Kids goall out for Wild Eyes chal­lenges


Kiwi kids all over the coun­try will be get­ting a breath of fresh air thanks to a new game launched ear­lier this month.

Wild Eyes is an on­line com­mu­nity of­fer­ing na­ture mis­sions for Kiwi kids, aged be­tween 8 and 12.

The chal­lenges in­clude fak­ing the dis­cov­ery of a gi­ant moa, build­ing a back­yard bivouac and host­ing a Kawakawa tea party.

Once a child com­pletes a chal­lenge they up­load a photo to a web­site in ex­change for on­line in­cen­tives, such as emo­jis and ‘‘likes’’ from other ‘‘wildlings’’.

Welling­ton-based game de­vel­op­ers Paul Ward and Vicky Pope aim to mimic the re­wards from so­cial me­dia sites with a safe, homegrown prod­uct.

‘‘It’s about speak­ing to dig­i­tal na­tives on their own terms,’’ Ward says.

He be­lieves chil­dren to­day are grow­ing up dif­fer­ently to pre­vi­ous gen­er­a­tions, be­cause of the im­pacts of tech­nol­ogy.

‘‘There is a real risk of dis­con­nect with na­ture’’.

Ward says there are both men­tal and phys­i­cal health ben­e­fits to get­ting out­doors.

There is also a fu­ture en­vi­ron­men­tal ben­e­fit for chil­dren to con­nect with na­ture, he says.

‘‘There’s a quote by David At­ten­bor­ough, ‘peo­ple will only pro­tect what they care about’,’’ he says.

‘‘If we don’t con­nect our tamariki with [na­ture]… there’ll be a whole lot of im­pli­ca­tions go­ing for­ward.’’

Each photo up­loaded is ev­i­dence of be­hav­iour change, he says. ‘‘It’s home­work kids want to do.’’

Ward drew on his child­hood ex­pe­ri­ence with video games to chan­nel their ‘‘se­duc­tive power’’ into Wild Eyes.

The dif­fer­ence with Wild Eyes is al­though ac­tiv­i­ties are logged on­line, most of the game play hap­pens in the real world.

‘‘Rather than telling the kids off for be­ing on screen, we use those screen tools to en­gage with the en­vi­ron­ment,’’ Ward says.

There have al­ready been ‘‘hun­dreds’’ of kids who have signed up.

The chal­lenges are ex­plained in a se­ries of videos hosted by Nova Ware­tini-Hewi­son and Chris­tian Den­ni­son, twin-brother of Hunt for the Wilder­peo­ple‘ s Ju­lian Den­ni­son.

Chris­tian says his favourite chal­lenge is one called DIY Cave.

‘‘We built a cave in a click­clack con­tainer and put sugar cubes in­side mod­el­ling clay with hot wa­ter,’’ he says.

The aim of this chal­lenge is to repli­cate how caves are formed in na­ture. He likes that the ac­tiv­i­ties are based on a points sys­tem.

‘‘It’s more fun be­cause it’s a com­pe­ti­tion.’’

Al­though Chris­tian has not tried all of the chal­lenges yet, he would def­i­nitely like to try more. ‘‘They look real fun.’’


Wild Eyes de­vel­oper Paul Ward, left, with Chris­tian, cen­tre, and Ju­lian Den­ni­son.

Chris­tian Den­ni­son fronts Wild Eyes videos to ex­plain the chal­lenges. He says they are fun and is look­ing for­ward to com­plet­ing more.

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