in shared spaces
The Loop Trail “Quest”: Use of a choice-based digital simulation, an interactive video, and a booklet to communicate and analyze decision-making of park visitors. *
Conflict between humans and wildlife can confound wildlife education efforts. Visitors blame wildlife for disease and injury in protected areas. Fear and disenchantment with wildlife ensue. Given this victim-villain mentality, coupled with biodiversity loss, degradation of natural environments, and loss of social support for wildlife conservation, it is imperative to adopt innovative conservation education approaches. Digital game technology and its ability to simulate nature can create compelling visuals, characters and stories where each step that a player takes involves a challenge and choice.
This innovation used a digital video game as both the research instrument and intervention that leveraged technology with environmental science, public health, social and behavioral sciences to understand park visitors’ decision-making. By making in-game decisions, ‘players’ experienced the impact of their actions on the environment, including underlying human and ecological drivers of disease spread. The game was both a messaging treatment and a data collection tool. The aims of the study were to 1) uncover in a simulated setting why park visitors make the decisions that they do, and 2) examine the likelihood of respondents changing their attitudes and perceptions when presented with consequences and benefits through different media; particularly of the protective or “heroic” role that biodiversity can play in reducing zoonotic disease risk; 3) gain information to inform the development of messaging that reflects an understanding of the choices made in the game.
Results revealed that participants in the simulation and video treatment groups were significantly more likely to shift attitudes on conservation-related themes when compared to participants in the Booklet treatment (p<0.05). Key findings suggest that participants selected reasons for non-compliant behaviors that aligned with their “self-interests.” This study addresses the gap in understanding non-compliant behaviors from park visitor perspectives as opposed to the commonly studied “organizational self-interest” perspectives (e.g., impacts on natural resources) and applies a social marketing lens to a One Health problem. The study also points to the need for innovative educational interventions related to disease causation and the positive associations between human health and wildlife health. Results also provide further evidence for the integration of GBL into conservation messaging.
* Howard, S., Buttke, D., Lovejoy, T., Clark, K., Ashby, E., Aguirre, A., (2021 forthcoming), The Loop Trail “Quest”: Use of a choice-based digital simulation, an interactive video, and a booklet to communicate and analyze decision-making of park visitors., Journal of Environmental Communications.