Escapist Editorials

Escapist Editorials
Phylomon: Gotta Catch Em' All!

Lauren Admire | 18 Mar 2010 15:32
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Ask a child what a Bulbasaur or an Igglybuff is, and he or she will effortlessly list a ream of details about it, including its abilities, where it dwells, and what sort of super-mon it can evolve into. Ask that same child what a star-nosed mole or an aye-aye is, and he or she hasn't a clue. Okay, so that's not exactly fair, I had to look up the latter animal as well, but a 2002 study confirms the upsetting fact that children can more readily identify Pokemon characters than they can the wildlife found in their own backyards.

In a study published in Science, conservationist Andrew Balmford and other researchers found that children up to age 8 were able to identify nearly 80 percent of 150 Pokemon species, and only 50 percent of common wildlife types found in their local areas. Balmford entreated fellow conservationists to heed the lessons of Pokemon: "People care about what they know. With the world's urban population rising by 160,000 people daily, conservationists need to re-establish children's links with nature if they are to win over the hearts and minds of the next generation."

This plea inspired David Ng and the folks from Science Creative Quarterly to create a trading card game that would combine the addictiveness of Pokemon with the beauty of the natural world. Thus, in the year 2010, The Year of Biodiversity, Phylomon was born.

Due to copyright issues, Phylomon will not be the official title of the game, but it's still what the community lovingly calls their pet project. It also portrays the concept of the game beautifully: The name is a play on the words Pokemon and Phylum, the taxonomic level subordinate to Kingdom. For now, the game is tentatively titled "Phylo."

According to the official website, Phylo will be a "non-commercial-open-access-open-source-because-basically-this-is-good-for-you-your-children-and-your-planet" trading card game. And that's about all we know - the rules sets and gameplay mechanics are unknown and this is exactly where you come in. The final design of Phylo will be the result of a creative collaboration of illustrators, scientists, game designers, and anyone else interested in the project. "Since this project is so reliant on a diverse range of communities, I think it's only natural how the project takes shape will be a more organic and fluid affair," states Ng. "It's funny, but others have often equated this process to "evolution" itself. This actually warms my heart - to me, folks affectionately using biological metaphors suggests that we may be on to something special here."

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