Celebrate Earth Day With Eco-Friendly Games

Eco-themed games give kids virtual goals with real-life impacts.

ByABC News
April 21, 2009, 6:19 PM

April 22, 2009— -- In honor of Earth Day April 22, families might want to plant a tree, plan a vegetable garden, or revisit their personal recycling routines.

In addition, parents might want to recommend to their Internet-savvy, constantly-online kids that they check out two new eco-friendly virtual worlds: "Emerald Island" and "Elf Island."

In both, kids learn to do good by gaming. The pro-ecology actions that kids perform within the games produce real-world benefits outside the game. Here's a closer look at what each has to offer.

"Emerald Island" is a massively multiplayer online game (MMO) where kids enter the game as an animal avatar that they design. Tasked with fighting off eco-destroying rodents known as PiRats, kids go on a series of quests to save this world from pollution, deforestation and other ecological disasters.

Upon entering this world, kids are provided with a home and land on which to plant a garden. This world is populated with other kid players as well as nonplayer characters who act as your guides throughout the world. As with most virtual worlds, you can change the look of your avatar, safely chat if parents approve, and decorate your crib.

But the focus of this game is completing eco-themed quests and planting a garden to raise crops for sale and to keep the habitat "green." One such quest involves helping an in-game character whose Aspen trees have been cut down by the PiRats. He needs your help in finding and planting new Aspen seeds.

MMOs can be confusing for kids new to this gaming experience, but "Emerald Island" eases this discomfort by providing cute, in-game movies that explain the game play. By playing the minigames scattered throughout the world, growing vegetables to sell and doing quests, kids earn coins to buy things in this virtual world.

Designed for kids ages 6-12, they can explore this world for free but will have a richer experience if they become a member. For example, members can buy additional seeds for their garden, whereas nonmembers will have to go on quests to earn more seeds. Membership is $5.95 for a month, $29.95 for six months, and $57.95 for a year.