Go Fish! Creating an Ocean-Friendly Fishing Video Game
AbstractVideo games are entertainment, but like other such media (say Oscar-winning movies or award-winning books), they can also point out challenges facing people. In this science project, you will design and create a fishing video game that teaches the player about which fish are plentiful enough to catch and which fish are not because their population is declining. Maybe your game can help solve the problem of over-fishing and help sustain healthy fish populations. All while having fun of course!
Michelle Maranowski, PhD, Science Buddies
To design and create a fishing video game in which the player scores points for catching sustainable, or "Best Choice," fish but scores nothing for catching "Avoid" fish.
Do you fish? Many people see fishing as a fun hobby, whether they do it off the side of a dock, from the deck of a sport-fishing boat, or even from the comfort of their couch with a fishing video game. But for others, fishing is not just a hobby – it is a job and a way to put food on tables across the world. The problem is some fish populations are declining quickly worldwide, and reports suggest that these changes are affecting the jobs of fishermen, the health of the oceans, and even the hobby of a weekend fisher. Part of the solution may lie in changing, at least temporarily, what fish humans eat in order to give the endangered fish populations time to recover. Marine research and education organizations like aquariums are strong advocates of this approach. But the question is: How do you get the message out about which fish are environmentally responsible to eat and which are not? The answer may lie in another form of entertainment – video games!
In this video and computer game project, you will educate your players about the fragility of ocean life by making a computer fishing game. You can do so using a programming language of your choice. You can join the effort to save the oceans by teaching your friends and family about the kinds of fish that are plentiful enough to eat and others that are declining and would be better left alone.
Before you dive into creating your video game, however, you might want to know a little more about what is happening to the fish under the ocean surface. Scientists estimate that human activity has led to the removal of 90% of the world's predatory fish, including sharks, swordfish, and codfish. According to the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch, factors that affect ocean life, specifically fish species, are overfishing, illegal fishing, habitat damage, bycatch, and lack of management. Let us look at overfishing, illegal fishing, and bycatch.
Overfishing is the act of catching fish faster than they can replace themselves. Fish like orange roughy (see Figure 1, which shows a trawler net of the fish) and rockfish don't reach breeding age for several decades and are vulnerable to overfishing. Rockfish, a species that inhabits waters along the West Coast of the United States and can live to be 100 years old, has been severely depleted due to overfishing. In 1992, the codfish population in Canada collapsed due to overfishing. Approximately 40,000 people lost their jobs, and the codfish population has not recovered.
Figure 1. This trawler net is full of orange roughy and bycatch caught in international waters in the Tasman Sea. Orange roughy can live up to 150 years. (© Greenpeace/Roger Grace)
Some desperate pirate fishermen are willing to break the law to make an income. Unfortunately, this affects worldwide fish populations. Pirate fishermen take undersized fish illegally, fish in closed areas, take more fish than allocated to them, or use illegal gear. Illegal fishing puts unsustainable pressure on fish stocks and habitats because the fish needed to build the next generation are lost.
Bycatch occurs when fishermen use less selective equipment, like bottom trawls and longlines, to catch fish, and instead of just catching the fish they want, also catch fish that they don't want. The fishermen often throw the bycatch back into the water either dead or dying. Longlines are hooked and baited lines that can reach lengths of 50 miles. These devices catch anything that wanders into its path. Bottom trawls drag along the bottom of the ocean floor catching anything in its wake. Bycatch isn't just unwanted fish; it can also include sea turtles, whales, dolphins, sharks, and even seabirds.
These practices have left some fish populations severly reduced. In order to give them the chance to breed and recover, marine biologists are recommending they be fished minimally or not at all. For that to work, consumers need to get the message so they can make informed choices when buying groceries or dining out. Your video game can help spread the message in a fun and memorable way.
Terms and Concepts
- Illegal fishing
- Habitat damage
- Breeding age
- Bottom trawl
- You have learned a little about catching fish from the oceans, but what about the alternative, aquaculture? What are some pros and cons of aquaculture?
- Go to the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch website (see bibliography for citation) and find the Seafood Watch pamphlet for your part of the country. What fish are acceptable for you to eat? Are the kinds of fish that are okay for you to eat okay for people in other parts of the country to eat?
- What are some of the attributes of a good video game? Hint: Check out Science Buddies' Kid-Friendly Programming Languages and Resources for answers.
- Monterey Bay Aquarium Foundation. (2011). Ocean issues. Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch. Retrieved December 12, 2017.
Read the report "America's Living Oceans: Charting a Course for Sea Change" to understand the Pew Ocean Commission's findings on the state of the world's oceans.
- Pew Charitable Trusts. (2011). Pew Ocean Conservation. Retrieved December 22, 2017.
- The National Geographic Society. (2011). Overfishing. The Ocean. Retrieved July 25, 2011.
This page will help you get started with a beginner-friendly programming language you can use to make a video game:
- Science Buddies staff. (2017). Kid-Friendly Programming Languages and Resources. Retrieved January 3, 2018.
Materials and Equipment
- Computer with internet connection
- Programming language of your choice. See the Kid-Friendly Programming Languages and Resources page for ideas.
Planning Your Fishing Game
- In this video and computer games science project, you will create a fishing game that not only entertains the player but also educates him or her about the fragility of life in our oceans and the right kinds of fish to eat. The goal for the player is to catch as many "good" fish as possible and not catch the "to avoid" fish as each type swims by the player's fishing rod or hook. The player will get points for every good fish he or she catches during an allotted amount of time.
- The first thing you should do is decide which programming language you will use to make a video game. If you aren't sure where to start, review the information on the Kid-Friendly Programming Languages and Resources page.
- Before you start making your own video game, you should do some basic tutorials to learn how to use the language you chose.
- Once you have completed some tutorials, and you feel comfortable with the programming environment, it is time to start the
project. As noted at the beginning of this procedure, this project follows the
Engineering Design Process.
- Remember, if you run into trouble making your game, or feel as if you want more practice before tackling this project, the links to the home pages for the various programming langaues contain many more helpful resources and forums where you can ask questions.
- Define the problem. In this case, you will create a fun and educational fishing game. Refer to the Science Buddies Define the Problem page to help you set the boundaries for the project.
- Do background research. The purpose of this game is to teach the player about the right kinds of fish to consume. Start at the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch website to determine the "Best Choices," "Good Alternatives," and "To Avoid" fish for your region. You should also start thinking about the goals of building a successful video game.
- Develop the project requirements. The project requirements are the characteristics that your video game must have to be a successful and
educational video game. Refer to the Science Buddies
Design Requirements section to get tips on how
to formulate your game's design requirements. Here are some ideas to consider when formulating the requirements.
- What kind of fish sprites (i.e. images or animations) do you want to use? How many of each kind ("Best Choices," "Good Alternatives," and "To Avoid")? What kind of fishing rod/hook sprite will you use?
- What other sprites do you need-bubbles or kelp-that will help set the scene?
- How long should the game last? What event will you use to control time? Where will it occur?
- How fast should the background and fish move?
- How many points will each category of fish earn the player? Will the player get points subtracted for fish they shouldn't catch?
- What will happen when your fishing rod hooks (or collides) with a fish? How will the fish move out of the water?
- Will there be sound in the game? If yes, will the sound be used during the entire game or only when a fish is caught?
Creating Your Fishing Game
- Create and analyze solutions. Keeping your project requirements in mind, think about different ways that you could build your game. Take a look at this Science Buddies document on Creating Alternative Solutions to guide your efforts. Once you have developed a few solutions, analyze the solutions by making rough sketches and flowcharts for each one. Refer to Science Buddies Best Solution document to help you pick a working solution.
- Build and test a sample video game. Once you have created a set of requirements and a possible solution, it is time to open your programming environment and start working on building a sample video game. Make a fish and have it swim around in your ocean (exactly how you do this will depend on your programming language). Remember to review your requirements so that you keep yourself focused on the task. Review this Science Buddies Prototyping document.
- Program your video game. Keep testing the game as you work. When you have fulfilled a requirement or task, run the game and test it out.
- Break the game programming up into smaller tasks so that the project is not overwhelming.
- Test the game along the way so that you can fix small issues as they come up. This will prevent your having a long set of events at the end that don't work.
- Once you have finished your game, check to see that all of the project requirements are fulfilled.
- Test and redesign. Review the Science Buddies Test and Redesign document to help organize your work. Test your game out on your family and friends. Take notes on what your players enjoyed and didn't enjoy about the game. Use their feedback to improve your game.
The Final Product: Presenting Your Game
- When presenting your game at your science fair, try to bring in a computer. If you are not able to do so, take screenshots of your work,
print them out, and mount them to a poster board.
- If you need help taking screenshots ask a teacher or someone else familiar with the computer for help.
- You should include the following items in your presentation:
- A list of the project requirements that guided your creation of the video game.
- The rough sketches or flowchart that describes how the game works.
- An explanation of what you learned from your research and from creating the video game.
- If you would like to publish your game for a wider audience to view, many of the links on the Kid-Friendly Programming Languages and Resources page have options for uploading your game to a website.
Ask an Expert
- Experiment with changing the speed of the fish as the game progresses.
- Indicate to the player when they have caught a good fish or a bad fish. This will help educate the player about life in the oceans.
If you like this project, you might enjoy exploring these related careers: