Video Game Garden: Virtual Botany’s Joys


In the quiet Shropshire village of Yaughton, something is afoot. The locals have melted into thin air, and the streets are filled with golden lights that murmur.

However, the most disturbing thing is that the local pub offers beer for 50 pence. There’s a mystery to unravel, but we’re mainly interested in the plants when I visit author and educator Adele Nozedar: Nozedar, who runs Brecon Beacons Foraging, is a source of botanical information.

She points out leylandii conifers and Japanese hostas as we walk past eerily abandoned cottage gardens.

She sends me waddling along streambeds in the woods above the village in search of wild mint and cattails.

The appearance of rose and tulip flowers, which usually occur at different times of the year, and the absence of common plants such as stonecrop, hogweed, and broadleaf plantain, for example, also alert me to anomalies.

Many plants seem to be a series of species, while others can not be described at all. With delicate white flowers, we spend 10 minutes examining a specimen.

It may be the Lace of Queen Anne, a form of edible wild carrot. If we could smell it, we could recognise the herb, notes Nozedar, but nothing in Yaughton smells like anything. Of course, this is not a real place: it is the setting for the Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture video game.

In response to her novel, Foraging With Kids, which aims to help children “put away their screens, get outside, and engage with nature” I brought Nozedar here (or rather, asked her to watch me play through the streaming app Twitch)-a timely goal: adults have always worried that sheltered or disadvantaged kids miss the benefits of green space, but particularly now, under lockdown conditions, when we are always worried that sheltered or disadvantaged kids miss the benefits of green space.

Nevertheless, could video game environments like these reach us halfway by educating young people about plants to which they do not have access? By and wide, Nozedar is fascinated by the flora at Yaughton. Their aim was not to teach, and it’s really clever that they went to the trouble of making the plants look so realistic,”Their intention was not to educate, and the fact that they went to the trouble to make the plants look so realistic is really brilliant,”

She suggests that by asking their children to find out what the game is doing wrong, parents can use the game as a teaching instrument. “It’s very encouraging for kids when they can identify something that’s not correct – it shows discernment,” she says. The video games of today are teeming with flora and fungi, from the mimosa trees in Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey to Hitman 2’s Colombian rainforests, but they seldom inspire genuine plant interest.

They are either generic “green herb” healing objects or non-interactive backgrounds for the most part: only a few construct meaningful activities around them, like farming sims such as Stardew Valley. A digital artist might create a bush where every leaf and stem is made of multiple polygons and moves with the wind realistically, but you could have maybe a dozen of them before the cost would cause them. “This opens up a world where artists have to choose which parts of a plant’s aesthetic are most important. “This act of choosing fascinates Swaim. He created the Video Game Foliage Tumblr while in college to celebrate offbeat variations of virtual plants.

He refers to the agave plants found in the sci-fi game, Borderlands, when asked about his favorites. These look like sprawling 3D plants with individually waving fronds, but they are simply made up of flat surfaces fanned out in a star shape that are cleverly textured. “tens of thousands of polygons,” will be required to accurately depict a field of agave plants, Swaim says.

By following non-realistic forms of art, those video games intensify the challenge.

Proteus, a game with matte, colorful desert landscapes where you find mushrooms that differ by season, is another favorite of Swaim’s. Professor Alexandre Antonelli, scientific director of London’s Kew Gardens, would love to work on a game featuring Kew’s gigantic array of plant species with a developer (on the Unearthed podcast you can listen to the center’s more uncommon plants).

For years, Antonelli struggled to acquire his tech-savvy


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