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How On the Edge is using mobile games to tell real life stories | Pocket Gamer.biz

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How On the Edge is using mobile games to tell real-life stories

On the Edge is a not-for-profit multimedia and conservation organisation that hopes to educate and inspire audiences about the troubles of endangered species. As part of this mission, the group has turned to mobile gaming to share these animals’ stories in an engaging way.

One such game is Electric Blue: Gecko Dash!, developed by Usiku Games, part of the Pan Africa Gaming Group. We interviewed them earlier this year about the game’s upcoming launch.

Following the game’s release, we spoke with On the Edge business development manager Brera Razzaq, who shares an update on Electric Blue: Gecko Dash! We also discuss how the group chooses which species to highlight in its games and how it aims to partner with fitting developers for each title to tell a story that can make a broader impact on the real world.


PocketGamer.biz: Can you tell us a little about On the Edge and its mission?

Brera Razzaq: When Beth Blood, founder and CEO of On the Edge, got her first-ever pet in her 30s – a mischievous and characterful dog named Jock – she instantly fell in love. But, she quickly realised that people didn’t really ‘see’ animals as cool and sentient fellow beings. They also weren’t portrayed in a relatable and intriguing manner within popular culture and the media.

This was when the idea for On the Edge was born. Beth wanted to create a company that would change the hearts and minds of those who weren’t being exposed to the natural world and couldn’t see animals and nature for the wonder that they are.

A lover of both animals and nature, Beth created On the Edge in 2015 to reconnect people with nature through storytelling and raise awareness of endangered species that need our help. OtE Productions was formed in 2020 to support the publishing of our mobile games.

Mobile games can tell real-life stories, but they also need a clear message with fun and engaging gameplay

Brera Razzaq

How do you think video games can help to tell real-life stories?

In today’s digital age, a huge disconnect exists between people and our natural world. However, platforms such as video games are constantly bringing people together and engaging players, providing an opportunity to immerse themselves in scenarios and environments they wouldn’t otherwise encounter.

There has to be a balance though. If you look at our most recent game, Electric Blue: Gecko Dash!, we took the plight and issues facing the critically endangered Electric Blue Gecko and created an interactive experience that lets players experience life through the animal’s eyes.

Throughout the game, you race to escape poachers and see how your choices affect your chances of freedom. It’s a simple concept on the surface, but it also conveys the threats the gecko faces in the wild, such as deforestation and the illegal pet trade.

Mobile games can tell real-life stories, but they also need a clear message with fun and engaging gameplay. Raising awareness of the challenges being faced in nature doesn’t have to be serious and sombre!

You currently have three games: Kākāpō Run, Purple Frog, and, as you mentioned, Electric Blue: Gecko Dash! What do you hope these games can achieve?

All our games are made with the intention of spreading awareness of an individual species whilst helping people to appreciate and reconnect with the wider natural world. We shine a light on EDGE – Evolutionarily Distinct and Globally Endangered – species in particular. A lot of endangered species don’t get the mass attention that other, more charismatic and traditionally “cute” animals receive. Our games not only champion underdog species that many don’t even know about but also enable players to form a connection with them. By playing our games, you raise awareness and empathise with these wonderfully unique animals and protect the worlds they live in.

After spending time playing as a gecko in Electric Blue: Gecko Dash!, dodging dangers and escaping poachers, you are going to have a deeper understanding of and develop a bond with the animal hero you’ve been playing as. This connection between players and the species being championed is vital. We believe that only by falling in love with nature will we truly appreciate its value and do what it takes to save it.

We’ve also recently seen conservation efforts for the Kākāpō, the star of one of our earlier mobile games, bringing the species back from the brink of extinction. While there is still a long way to go, changes are being made, and the Kākāpō is getting the spotlight it needs.

The heroes in all our games can be saved, and we hope that our titles are helping pave the way for more success stories like the Kākāpō birds in New Zealand.

What can you tell us about developing these games and choosing which species to highlight?

It was important for us to work with a local game developer

Brera Razzaq

Each year, we pick a region teeming with unique and threatened EDGE species; these are known as EDGE zones. There are around 4,000 known EDGE species, and only one in every ten is getting the conservation attention it needs. So, we have many options to choose from for a game. This is where our natural history team is helpful – we consider the projects and explore which of these species could benefit from increased attention, have a compelling narrative, and possess interesting traits that lend themselves to gamification.

We research the chosen species and provide a fact file to the developers, who then propose game concepts that could work well. We always work closely with development teams on the narrative and design of the game.

In 2023, we focused our efforts on the Eastern Arc, a biodiversity mountain range hotspot stretching across Kenya and Tanzania. This wasn’t just about raising awareness but sparking pride for the Electric Blue Gecko in the area.

Electric Blue: Gecko Dash! is all about this dazzling little blue lizard. It’s a creature you won’t find anywhere else in the wild – its entire world is squeezed into a mere eight square kilometres of Tanzanian rainforest. It was important for us to work with a local game developer, and that led us to our creative partners, Usiku Games and Kayfo Games. Although we want to ignite a sense of local pride, we want the game to inspire the global community to join us in protecting these irreplaceable creatures.

The fantastic thing about EDGE species is that they’ve adapted to life in their specific EDGE zone. This enables us to tell entertaining stories and draw inspiration from varied habitats and species that have evolved quirky and unusual visual and behavioural traits. Although these species are facing very real plights, we keep the gameplay fun and optimistic. Information about how humans and the modern world are impacting their survival is weaved into the narrative, but it’s shared in an entertaining way.

Obviously, each animal is different. However, regardless of their different environments or current threats, we take the time to see how we can tell their story in a new and engaging way.

How do you find the right studios to partner with? They have the responsibility of not only making a fun game but also sharing an important message.

It’s important for us to work with game developers local to the EDGE zones and species we are featuring in our games.

In the case of Electric Blue: Gecko Dash! Usiku Games was a perfect fit. They are a team that is passionate about creating ‘games for good’ that have a positive impact on communities across Africa. Their values resonate with what we are trying to achieve at On the Edge and OtE Productions. So, it seemed fitting to collaborate with a team that felt as strongly about gaming for good and nature as we do.

Generally, we always look at a company’s values before we enter into any partnerships. We have to ask the questions: Do their values align with ours? Do they believe in creating games that have a positive impact on the world? And have they created similar games before? It’s easier to work with a developer who shares the knowledge of the positive impact games can have.

We spoke with the developers of Electric Blue: Gecko Dash! before the game’s launch; as the publisher, what can you tell us about the launch so far? Is it going well?

Yes! It’s been great to see how everyone is embracing the message of conservation and freedom in connection with the game’s release. We’ve seen headlines mentioning awareness, the illegal pet trade and more. It’s also encouraging to see Usiku Games, the developers of Electric Blue: Gecko Dash!, get the recognition they deserve.

During the first week of March we saw the game ranked as the number one casual mobile game on the Google Play Store in Kenya!

Brera Razzaq

All in all, it’s really heartening to see the gaming community come together and support the important messaging and purpose of Electric Blue: Gecko Dash! – spreading awareness of this critically endangered gecko.

Our social channels have also been sharing more stories about the Electric blue gecko, and it’s been wonderful to see people show some love for the species in their comments and interactions. In fact, during the first week of March, we saw the game ranked as the number one casual mobile game on the Google Play Store in Kenya!

On the Edge is on a mission to reconnect humanity with nature, and seeing all the interest and enthusiasm for OtE Productions’ game tells us we are on the right track and motivates us to continue championing EDGE species.

And finally, what can we expect to see from On the Edge over the rest of 2024?

2024 is going to be an exciting year for us. We have several updates to our existing games that enable players to customise the main characters, including endless modes for our biggest fans. We’re also working on two new titles that we hope to launch soon.

Our first title will take us underwater, an environment we’ve yet to explore with our current game roster. It will be interesting to show mobile gaming fans a completely different habitat to get lost in.

We’re also looking at a second title for 2024 that features something a little scaley. You’ll have to follow us on Instagram to find out more!


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