Adam Dhalla wants gamers to set aside their Angry Birds to save real ones.
The 14-year-old Coquitlam student is turning his passions for birding and conservation, which have earned him international acclaim, into a mobile game app. And he’s got a pretty significant ally in his corner.
Dhalla has teamed up with the National Wildlife Federation (NWF) to bring Find the Birds: US + Canada, to life.
Dhalla, who won the American Birding Association’s young birder of the year award in 2018, said while he’s “not a super hardcore game player” himself, he recognizes the potential of game apps to reach a new audience that might be receptive to a message of conservation that’s also fun.
“It’s a medium young people are familiar with,” Dhalla told The Tri-City News. “It’s not just a talk or an essay.”
Since coming up with the initial idea four years ago, Dhalla has been formulating concepts in his head and committing some of them to storyboards for an adventure quest that allows players to explore virtual habitats like forests, wetlands, grasslands and beaches to identify and find songbirds, waterfowl, gamebirds, seabirds and raptors. When a player finds a bird, an illustration and fact sheet goes into their field guide. They also receive “coins” that can be exchanged for items that will attract and help birds, like nesting boxes and bird baths.
Dhalla said the conservation aspect is an important element of the game that he hopes translates into real-world action by players.
“Birding is just a part of it,” he said.
Of course, developing an app isn’t cheap, so Dhalla approached the American Birding Association, which connected him to the NWF. And getting it on board took some salesmanship.
“It was a little out of the box,” Dhalla said of his idea.
A crowdfunding campaign Dhalla launched on GoFundMe in June is looking to raise $160,000 to fund the app’s development with Petricore, Inc., a game and software developer in Worcester, Mass. that has produced titles like Trap and Trade, which simulates the life and challenges of a Native American trapper in Wisconsin in 1650, as well as a medical triage simulator that can be used for training first responders.
The NWF, Dhalla said, will use its resources to help get the word out and build support amongst its more than six million members and supporters.
Dhalla said realizing his vision for the game is more important than just creating something that will occupy idle hands.
“Birding is kind of a gateway to conservation,” he said. “A lot of crucial decisions need to be made soon, and it’s our responsibility to start the process to recharge this idea of conservation.”
• To learn more about Dhalla’s game, go to www.findthebirds.com.