By Lars Olsen
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. The Manufactured Planet is inhabited by humans that have overexploited their natural resources. It is a dystopia for environmentalists, filled with industry and choked with smog. The scientists living on this dismal planet discover their mistakes and realize that they are also bringing sickness to their beautiful neighbor, the Natural Planet. Both planets are in grave danger until scientists create the process of “bioharmony” to integrate nature with technology. If you strategically implement this technology, you will become “BioHarmonious” with the Natural Planet.
BioHarmonious was the first electronic game released by Art Works For Change and was also funded by the AT&T Foundation. It was released in 2013 at “Nature’s Toolbox”, an exhibition on biodiversity, art, and invention. While scientific or factual evidence tends to dominate educational games, art provides a unique opportunity to appeal to players’ empathy. In this way, artistic games like BioHarmonious can be a much more compelling way to teach about human impacts on the natural world.
By focusing on a balance between the manufactured and natural worlds, this game can be a great introduction to the challenges posed by environmental stress. The mechanics of the game are also quite simple and accessible to young children, only consisting of clicking and dragging objects between the planets in order to balance their health. The goal is to upgrade every manufactured building with a natural item in order to reduce environmental stress. BioHarmonious demonstrates a clear dichotomy between humans and the environment, but shows that the two are not necessarily diametrically opposed. In fact, taking inspiration from nature can provide benefits for both humans and the environment.
This game has good story, themes, music, and art design for an educational game. Moreover, BioHarmonious is ridiculously easy and only delivers 6 minutes of gameplay. We would recommend it as a great way to engage younger children in environmental problems, but not for older students. One major problem with the game is its lack of concern for damage to the Natural Planet; removing specimens has no effect on its health. BioHarmonious’ themes and strategic depth would be bolstered by more thoroughly implemented tradeoffs in gameplay.
BioHarmonious is a simple strategy game that excels as an artistic tool representing the need for balance with nature. The game focuses on the positive aspects of sustainable design and innovation. As a point of caution, it is dangerous to assume that technology can solve every environmental problem. Sometimes only by reducing human impact can we create change. In any case, the game provides players with hope for Earth; that we might learn from nature and innovate ourselves out of disaster while creating a healthy and sustainable world.
Gameplay/Fun: ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
Educational: ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
Scientific Rigor: ★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
Accessibility: Ages 6-13
Platform: Web browser (not Google Chrome)