Have you ever played Myst? How about Riven? My knowledge of these two graphic video games likely ages me. I am not a gamer. I received one or the other from my sister years ago. These games are not like Farmville, which is so prevalent on Facebook. Farmville is cartoonish, while games like Riven are as real looking as a computer generated game can be. While at the ANLA Management Clinic a week ago I had the opportunity to sit down with Steve Cissel of 10-20 media, and watch a preview of a new gardening game they have come up with. The still unnamed game has a "world" along the lines of Riven. In this virtual world birds fly in and out of view, water laps onto a shore, and various events can be programed to happen at different times in the game. In this new un-named game the object is to grow to maturity various plants.
So there you are in this virtual world trying to grow a real, or made up tree. Maybe it's a cross between an apple and a loquat, an apquat. You nurture your apquat by watering, feeding, controlling pests, etc. When the apquat fruits you are rewarded with "gold coins" or other reward. Success, you can grow stuff virtually. So far it's just a game, and the connection to our garden center business is zero.
Being from an age group that doesn't automatically "get it" when it comes to games I had to have Steve explain why he was showing this idea at the ANLA Clinic? How does growing a apquat to maturity and fruit benefit the local garden center? When you successfully "grow" something in this virtual game you are rewarded. How the reward is paid out has not been determined yet. You take your reward to the locally owned garden center where you receive your prize! Guess what? You get a free, or reduced priced real plant or other garden center item.
That's when I had my AH AH moment! Someone, maybe a young person who has no experience gardening plays the game and learns that plants need water to grow. To thrive they need fertilizer, which can be applied to the virtual plant. Put too much on the plant dies. Put on the right amount it grows. Oh, oh, mildew has arrived and covers the leaves. You learn that organic fungicide is the answer, or perhaps moving the plant to a sunnier location might help. Now the plant thrives and you get a reward! Only to "cash in" the reward involves going down to that place called a garden center. Normally that might be intimidating to the new gardener, but you have learned from playing the game that the "garden center" is the friendly place with answers to your questions. You have also learned from playing the game you need fertilizer, and mildew control. Now you enter this real garden center armed with enough knowledge to keep from feeling "foolish", and ready to grow a real plant.
They key to the game for garden retail is the reward, which brings in newbie gardeners to the garden shop. Some may play the game, win a reward and never cash it in at the garden center. That's o.k., because others will wan't to cash in, and try their hands at real gardening. "If I can do this stuff virtually, maybe I can for real". After all, you won a real thing, which needs other real things to keep it growing. I can see all sorts of opportunities for interaction with the local garden center. Imagine a virtual "Golden Gecko Garden Center" that exists in the game. It's the "magical place" where you go to hear from the "plant wizards" and buy the "potions" needed for keeping that virtual garden growing, and thriving. After all, you want to win another prize.
From what I understand the game is slated for release sometime this summer. It could be a fantastic way to interest newbie gardeners in gardening. So much these days is done virtually, and if we can at least get some interest in that world, we might be able to get some interest in our "real" world of gardening. Keep an eye on this!