iNat mention in the Guardian Gaming section

A video game garden: the delights of virtual botany - Edwin Evans-Thirlwell

this short article mentions iNat during a discussion of how to connect portrayals of plants in video games with an interest in botany


In Animal Crossing, the fall/winter “weeds” include Avena and Veronica – both accurate :)
I love it when games accurately reflect nature.

I suppose most of the Forum skews a little older, but if you do play video games, what have been your favourite accurate flora/fauna finds?


I love how many Pokemon are based on real (often obscure) animals, for example how Oricorio is based on Hawaiian honeycreepers.


Seconding Pokemon! The more recent games include regional variations that mimic isolated populations and subspecies, which is really neat. iNat as a whole sometimes feels like going into the tall grass to fill out my real-world Pokedex.

I know there was a lot of conversation around Red Dead Redemption 2, especially with the diversity of the birds included. There were a few articles about virtual birding during quarantine using RDR2. However, I haven’t yet played it myself.

Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild has a interesting variety of creatures which have defined ranges depending on climate and location. You even get rewards for running around and taking pictures of each species. You can also find giant cetacean fossils in the desert, implying geological shifts over time, which is a cool touch.

And of course, there’s the Monster Hunter series, especially Monster Hunter World. The actual creatures aren’t all based in reality (though there’s a lot of inspiration from actual dinosaurs), but the whole world feels alive and is populated by a huge variety of species that all have their own niches and behaviors. Again, you get rewarded for capturing and recording information for each creature.

I could probably list more, but these are the ones I can think of off the top of my head. It’s really cool that game developers seem to be putting more time and thought into the natural environments of their games. We certainly appreciate it!


I have a pacifist save file of the game where my only goal is to catalogue every species :)


I always like finding flowers in Minecraft; I am still looking for the “Sunflower Plains” biome on my original 1.7 version world (which has been updated to 1.6.1). :sunflower:


I had meant to mention BOTW (my favorite video game) but forgot. I love the fact that every animal species in the game has its own name and unique behavior.

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Pokémon really got me inspired to use this site when I was younger, and the Critterpedia from Animal Crossing has sorta helped keep that drive going. It’s amazing how much video games have impacted my interests in the natural world.

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My favorite Pokemon evolution line (from a design perspective) is the Corviknight line. The fact that it represents the three levels of knighthood using three common British birds (Rookidee is a Great Tit, Corvisquire is a jackdaw, and Corviknight is a raven) is awesome.

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I’ve never played RDD2, and I just looked up the wildlife list. It’s so cool that it is almost entirely real species found in the American west, although of a generic thrush-like bird simply called “songbird” alongside (mostly) accurate models of real species is baffling.

It’s a cool article. I wonder if Prof. Antonelli had heard of Seek? :thinking:

There’s an app called iNaturalist, where you can take a photo of a plant or animal and there’s machine learning to identify the species. It’s a fantastic thing to do with your phone but I think what we’ve been lacking is the game part, because especially for younger people, there must be some kind of reward.


Pokemon definitely. They have a region based on Hawaii where before the introduction of yungoos(mongoose), rattata(rats) were diurnal, but after the introduction of the invasive species, the rattata became nocturnal, and eventually evolved a different form. So many different species of pokemon are based on somewhat obscure real-world species and I feel like that is fantastic for getting young people engaged with nature. If they like something in a video game, maybe they will like the same thing in real life, and potentially try and help conservation efforts for said species.


Yeah, that would be me (born 1954). I played some of the kids’, nephews’ and nieces’ games over the years. I played a few different things but the only one that I remember with much clarity is the Katamari games, which appealed to my over-developed sense of the absurd. I can say with confidence that the renderings of plants and animals was not great. Rolling up elephants and whales (and buildings and ships), on the other hand, was weirdly cathartic.

My wife (who is not on iNat but mostly tolerates my naturalist tendencies) described my activities on iNat at a family gathering as “sort of like Pokemon Go but with real plants and animals”.


The discovery of iNaturalist was the beginning of the end of my Pokemon Go days :)


There are two interesting aspects in this article (and in this discussion): One is representation of ‘nature’ (plants, animals and ecosystems in general) in various virtual worlds/digital games, and another is ‘gamification’ of iNaturalist project itself. Both are interesting and important to discuss and thank you, @marykrieger, for bringing this topic to the forum!

I could share an example of the World of Warcraft, one of the earliest large (mass-multiplayer) online games. It’s still played today by millions of player and at the time of its launch, some 15 years ago, was one of the most popular online games (phenomenally popular, if to be precise).

WoW is indeed a huge world, and incredibly diverse ones, with multiple zones representing different biomes like forests, swamps, deserts, jungles etc, each populated by the relevant plants and animals. Sure, some of them were deliberately made very fantastic (or phantasy-like), yet many were based on the actual ecosystems and their creatures. Despite the graphics of the game was fairly basic, these diverse habitats were very immersive and engaging,

One of the earliest ‘professions’ that you could master in this game was Herbalism, when players had to ‘collect’ different ‘herbs’. It wasn’t very central to the gameplay, but I recall a sheer pleasure of getting some rare and beautiful ‘plants’ by venturing into very remote corners of particular zones (and I know the pleasure was shared by millions of other players, too).

With every next expansion of the game new ‘herbs’ were added, to the joy of ‘digital herbalists’. In one of such expansions, Myst of Pandaria (it was centered around ‘China’ theme), an entire new profession of ‘Gardening’ was added, where players had to ‘grow’ their own ‘vegetables’ and ‘herbs’, and then ‘harvest’ them.

There are of course also animals in WoW, galore, and from all kind of kingdoms and phyla. Some of them are peaceful, other aggressive (the latter you would mainly need to kill, alas). Again, most of them are depicted in a fairly stereotypical way, but nevertheless they are all ‘alive’ and ‘behaving’.

One of the classes in the game, Hunters, had an ability of ‘taming’ multiple animals that could be later used as companions (and also as the ‘weapons’ in the fights). Thousands of people were choosing this class and then invested in its specific ability to tame as many ‘pets’ as possible.

Again, later in the game Blizzard (the company behind WoW) had a similar ability to all players. They could now collect various ‘companions’ from a huge variety of creatures populating this world.

And yes, the Fishing!

I am pretty sure that the team of WoW developers was consulted by numerous biologists. Even the current level of representation of ‘nature’ in the game is quite stunning, and it could only gets better - including with the help of such communities as iNat.

I mentioned only WoW, but by now there are obviously dozens of other digital games with massive presence of ‘nature’ in their gameplay. Some of them beautifully photo-realistic, some are pretty basic yet nevertheless very interesting platforms for e-Naturalists (people already mentioned Minecraft, one of such games).

All of these diverse games could be seen as potential platforms for both education of and emotional engagement with different audiences (not only with children). And all of these games could become better if they would have a chance to tap into collective expertise of the communities such as iNat.

I will need to write a separate comment on the second topic :)


Welcome to the Forum, @ceacea!
I’ve never played WoW, but my best friend has been playing for a very long time.
Has anyone here played the latest Witcher games? Those also have immersive natural environments. I’m only like two hours into the third game so I don’t have much to say.

To be fair some of them are a little too obvious. “Ekans” is just snake spelled backwards.

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On ‘gamification’ of iNat:

I believe that iNaturalist and its current (and future) users could benefit greatly from more active use of gamification… however, there is a catch here.

‘Gamification’ is a tricky concept. Unfortunately, lately it was made equal to just adding a few features to websites and social media, like ‘collecting points’, making ‘achievements’ or ‘unlocking levels’. These are all valid tools - but only for some people, in certain situations and for certain purposes. The very same tools could fail to bring any positive results and instead cause disengagement, resentment and even hostility.

Gamification covers a wide spectrum of methods and techniques, and their choice and application should be guided by very good understanding of the current audience and social context, and also by accurate anticipation of how they will be changing with time.

In fact, iNaturalist is already an example of ‘gamification’, and works very well for certain people (you’ve likely heard about people who got addicted to iNat :) The question is whether the developers of iNat want to expand the ranges of these people and/or achieve new levels of interactions with the existing ones (e.g., current campaign of soliciting the donations could be ‘gamified’ much more efficiently :)

And yes, we can learn a lot from the current generation of digital games (and digital media in general), often of what to do (and in some cases what not to do) when gamifying iNat


There is a new game out on the switch called “Sakuna: of Rice and Ruin.” A large part of the game involves tending to your rice crop, and the designers made a strong attempt to make that process as accurate as possible. You make fertilizer, sort seed grain using traditional techniques, monitor water levels and temperature in the rice paddies, deal with weeds and pests in the crop… In fact they refer to the Japanese Ministry of Agriculture’s website for farming tips. That’s some dedication to realism there.


many names in Warcraft are homages or sideways references to other cultural elements - Ekans is the snake Pokemon; Among other authors, Gary Gygax one of the original D&D creators was very fond of naming things by simply reversing a word - so possible double up on this one

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