Monday, November 13, 2006

(Virtually) Run With The Wolves

Minnesota Zoo Computer Program Allows Users To Live (And Maybe Die) In The Wild

Mary Tan- WCCO-TV

(WCCO) Apple Valley, Minn. The Minnesota Zoo is developing a video game that simulates being in a pack of wolves in the middle of Yellowstone National Park. The computer-animated simulation, called Wolfquest, is designed to put players in real-life situations in the middle of the wild where the wrong decision may make all the difference between life and death.

"We want our players to gain an empathy for wolves -- what it is to be a wolf, [to] gain an emotional connection, to be with them," said Grant Spickelmier, a naturalist at the Minnesota Zoo.

The object of the game is fairly straightforward: find food, care for your offspring, avoid predators and otherwise stay alive.

The backdrop of Yellowstone was chosen for its scenic and natural beauty.

The game is designed as an educational tool for children -- boys and girls -- from 9 to 13.

"We want to make a game that's attractive enough that they would pick it up on their own," said Spickelmier, adding, "they get hooked and, hey, maybe they'll learn something about wolves."

The game is expected to be finished and beta-tested by December 2007.

The goal is to put Wolfquest on the zoo's Web site and free for anyone to use.

Local zoo educators are also working with the Phoenix Zoo, the National Zoo in Washington D.C., and the International Wolf Center in Ely, Minn.


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