When my son was born a few years back, the land-dwelling “roly poly” isopod was one of his first deep fascinations with a living creature. I also noticed many other young children experience the same thing…it seems that people have a natural curiosity for roly polys, and perhaps everyone has loved these little round wonders at some point. For me, I guess that love kicked in as an adult. Creating a game that captured the spirit of the roly poly, along with a strong message to understand more about natural science, biodiversity and how insects contribute to healthy ecosystems became a personal obsession. After work, during weekends, whenever I could spare a moment, I’ve been making this app with the intention of creating a unique science game that stands out from the crowd. What if it was possible to create a educational game that was so fun, kids would intentionally choose it over the endless stream of junk being hurled at them from every angle? I had to try.
It made sense to start things off by creating a situation where a “famous” local insect could be the centerpiece of the first environment, my home, Santa Cruz California. While it’s true that in real life the Ohlone Tiger Beetle would likely eat the isopod for lunch, the title of “California’s Most Endangered Insect” made for a perfect first level character. The rare, metallic green critter named for it’s ferocious attitude, is in need of a lot of help as there are less than a thousand of them in the whole world.
My first recollection of discussing the Ohlone Tiger Beetle happened back in early 2002 when a local Santa Cruz newspaper featured the little guy as the center of some fairly big controversy. Being that I had been a dedicated mountain bike rider all the way up to a helmet-crushing crash in 2001, it struck me as particularly ironic that the remainder of this rapidly declining endangered insect population was being threatened by people like myself: Outdoor enthusiasts who simply do not notice that they were smashing these diminutive creatures under foot. Or, in my case, under tire. After the article, I don’t think I rode those particular trails ever again.
But accidental human predators weren’t the only contentious issue surrounding the green tiger, the real issue, one that effects us all, is why do we put forth so much effort to preserve endangered species? The argument is, it’s a waste of time and money, and that species appear and go extinct all the time. So why bother? There are many, many reasons why we work hard to save species from going extinct, but the most important reason, in my opinion, is because we need to know how. The better we are at studying and preserving species on the verge of extinction, the better we can be at preserving ourselves.
But Isopod is not a game about endangered species, it’s a game about about discovering a fascination with all things arthropoda. It’s a game about revealing the connection between biodiversity and ecosystem health. It’s a game about our interactions with the critters we often take for granted. They all play a role in a much bigger picture, one that requires our respect and attention.