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04 Feb, Saturday
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Montreal Families

Video game about potato growing aims to harvest change

The game’s concept was inspired by creator Vali Fugulin’s son and his obsession with potatoes. “I really wanted to make an educational game that would address the desire to change the world,” Fugulin says. “All I needed was a humorous metaphor, so I decided to create Potatoland.”

Potatoland is where you find the game’s main character, Chips, and help him collect potatoes in the village. But when faced with a potato shortage, Chips must find a way to unite his community, help find a way to make potatoes grow again and overturn the Potatosaurus Monster’s reign.

“When you are young, you still believe that you can have an impact on your world,” she says. “I wanted to make a game that would convey the message that social change is possible with small gestures and think-outside-the-box ideas.”

There are 10 steps of innovation that kids, as they become Chips, will experience while trying to restore the community. All the characters in the game are inspired by real social innovators – a Colombian boy who started a foundation at the age of 6 to help the elderly and homeless, a couple who created an animal sanctuary to protect turtles in Brazil, and Renaissance, an organization in Montreal that collects used goods for donation and creates employment at their centres.

The game was a collaboration between Fugulin, who is the film board’s artist in residence, illustrator Patrick Doyon and Montreal-based video game development studio Minority Media. “My role as a filmmaker has always been to engage people in a reflection about our world,” Fugulin says. “I really think the new way to do this is through games.”

Fugulin and her team asked kids who tested the game what they had learned. “They expressed an interest and understanding that you need to work with your friends to achieve something, that community is important and that you should take care of the environment,” she says.

The website features tools to help parents discuss the game with their children, including a 10-step guide to social innovation. It can be downloaded free on the App Store for iOS and the Google Play store for Android, or can be played online by visiting the NFB’s website.

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