Background

With the drought taking a toll on Australia’s water supply, ABC Innovation sought to educate the Australian public about water management and saving, with a focus on school students.

As part of National Science Week, the ABC intended to launch a website and online game to attract and hold public attention while educating on environmental sustainability and enviro-economic issues.

Brand: ABC Science
Clients: ABC Science/ABC Local Radio, CSIRO and eWater CRC
Agency: Moon Communications Group

Objective

  • Educate Australians of all ages about water management, and
  • Create an online engagement suitable for the general public as well as teachers and students.

Strategy

To engage such a broad target audience in science education it had to be made fun. A simulation game was designed that would put players in charge of the entire catchment for a town.

The game would receive cross-media promotion from ABC Radio and through National Science Week.

Execution

Building on the CSIRO’s simulation engine, Moon developed an engaging Flash game whereby users were challenged to balance environmental and economic needs in a set number of moves. The custom environment focused on ease-of-use, education and user enjoyment. The game mirrored real-life conditions by demonstrating the impact of player decisions on the environment and the social and economic wellbeing of the town. Players could decide what activities to undertake: to plant crops, log forests, build factories or set up national parks. The aim for players was to avoid environmental problems and to provide food and wealth for the population.

In addition, unexpected events, such as rainfall, reflected the unpredictable nature of the Australian environment.

To ensure maximum engagement, the gameplay was intuitively designed and information presented only when necessary.

The game was housed within a greater website containing further educational information on water management through video, audio and in-depth articles. A dedicated ‘Teacher Resource Centre’ on the site gave guidance to teachers, providing them with help on the game, ideas on how to introduce it to students and detailed background information on water management in Australia.

Results

The campaign brought the environmental impact of our day-to-day existence to the mind’s of the Australian public by pitting people against a digital unpredictable environment. Awareness raised is demonstrated in the game’s popularity:

  • 250,000 games played to date, and
  • 5,000 continuing to be played each week.

The campaign generated significant involvement from the general population and school groups. ‘Catchment Detox’ was also promoted exceptionally during National Science Week, with a competition between radio celebrities featured on air and the website.

The campaign was awarded an Australian Interactive Media Industry Association award for Best Science, Health, Environment Campaign.