New App Uses Gamification to Benefit Our National Parks

Exciting and inspiring news in the world of gamification: a new mobile game called “Save the Park” is aiming to raise awareness about the conservation and preservation of our National Parks by using gamification to promote volunteering!

Although our national parks occupy over 84 million beautiful acres of land here in America, they are chronically neglected and underfunded. In fact, according to a recent article in Forbes, there is currently a whopping “$12 billion dollar backlog of much needed repairs” that must be made to parks across the country, but “last year the Park Service received only 60% of the money required just to keep the maintenance backlog from getting worse.” And although groups are lobbying Congress to give more funding to our National Parks, “Save the Park” is attempting to engage volunteers on a more grassroots level – through gaming.

Created to mark the Centennial of the National Park Service, “Save the Park” grew out of a collaboration between American Express, which donated a grant of $250,000 to fund the game’s creation, in partnership with an organization called Games for Change (which conceptualized the game and served as its executive directors) and Schell Games (who spearheaded its actual development).

In the game, players have the option of controlling two different characters – a volunteer in a national park, and his or her Junior Ranger companion, who is a 9 year old. Together, the characters complete actual volunteering tasks and unlock Easter Eggs that reveal secret content or points – all while teaching the player about our parks and how much of an impact volunteers really do have on their preservation and conservation. There is also an interactive component to the game; the app is linked to the National Parks’ volunteer website, and prompts requesting that the player visit the website appear with some frequency throughout gameplay.

American Express’s financial backing for “Save the Parks” comes as part of AMEX’s $5 million pledge to recruit “one million volunteers in national parks annually by 2017.” American Express will additionally be donating $1 to the National Park Foundation for every download of the game through December 31, 2016, so visit your app store and download it today.

We’re excited to see how else gamification changes the philanthropic landscape in the future – please continue to watch this space for more news on this topic as it comes!

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