Fire and Flora is a card-based resource management game descended from Pokémon, Settlers of Catan, and real life. It is two-thirds game, and one-third outreach tool. In Fire and Flora, players work to build a healthy and beautiful landscape in a world of rain, wind, fires, earthquakes, evil squirrels, and crafty opponents.
Nature is deep and beautiful. Unfortunately, in modern American life, most people - and most children - have relatively little contact with nature. As a scientist, gamer, idealist, and child-at-heart, I was saddened by this situation but inspired by the potential of games to teach, transform, and excite.
This game began, not as a game, but as a set of flash cards for botanical interns - a way give new folks a quick introduction to the facts. Soon after I started work on the cards, I found myself ashamed at the idea of becoming yet another pusher of isolated facts. I had always criticized my own education for being focused on facts over understanding, and now that it was my turn to teach, I wanted to do better.
As a professional ecologist, I knew that the most important idea in ecology was the idea of interconnectedness, and I saw that games offered an effective way to teach about systems. I realized that, through games and play, I could teach real understanding instead of just isolated facts. Even better, I could create situations with the potential for fun, and through fun I could inspire. Thus, Fire and Flora was born.
In Fire and Flora, the game cards represent real-world plants, animals, places, and forces; while the game rules model the interactions among these real-world elements. By playing the game, players learn about the ecological patterns and processes of southern and central California, and about broader principles that apply to the Earth as a whole.
While these ecological ideas are very important, the experience of learning through play is even more important. I hope that this experience inspires players to learn more about nature, to consider sustainability in their everyday choices, and most importantly, to go out and explore on their own.
Scientist, educator, gamer, and dreamer. Tim has degrees in physics and ecology, and has worked for NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory and the National Park Service. With big hopes of helping to build a better world through play, he founded Mindful Mammoth where he now works as a combination educator and designer, developing activities and games to promote the understanding and appreciation of science, nature, and life through play.