Beyond Blue, the latest game from E-Line Media, follows the journey of underwater diver Mirai as she follows a pod of sperm whales in the Pacific Ocean. In order to truly bring the ocean and all its diversity to life, the developers collaborated with a number of scientific advisors, several of whom were also involved in partner BBC’s documentary series Blue Planet II.
But why is scientific accuracy so important? I mean, Beyond Blue is a video game. It shouldn’t matter how they portray anything, least of all the ocean. It’s all just for fun after all.
Unfortunately, the planet’s oceans are facing an unprecedented time of crisis, which is sadly often ignored or unseen due to the lack of knowledge and education about the crisis. Beyond Blue hopes to bring that a little closer to home for players.
“First and foremost our goal is to entertain players in a meaningful way and hopefully to evoke emotion and insights so that they end the journey knowing more about this world and caring more deeply about it,” explained Beyond Blue’s creative director, Michael Angst. “I recognized that we couldn't do a meaningful and emotionally rich, narrative-based game about the ocean if we didn't balance the beauty and wonder that we wanted to depict with the pressure and the crisis that is evident.”
For those unaware, the oceans face challenges, including illegal and harmful mining, overfishing, and pollution, all topics that are touched upon in Beyond Blue. All of these are seen through the eyes of Mirai, a young woman who cares deeply about all the creatures she studies.
“The only way that we can change the course that we’re on with respect to environmental devastation and climate change is to wake people up, and waking people up means not sugar coating things and, not scaring people, but making them aware of the harsh realities that are happening in the ocean right now,” said lead science advisor for the game, Dr. Mandy Joye, speaking candidly of the consequences of human impact on the ocean.
“Through the game it's a powerful way to make people aware of the beauty, to show the beauty of the habitat with them and to help them understand the challenges that we as scientists face in trying to come up with explanations and solutions for the issues that we see in the ocean,” Joye said.
“It's not easy,” admitted Dr. David Gruber, another science advisor for Beyond Blue. “It hurts me so much to keep taking inventory of declining marine species.”
However, neither scientists nor the ocean are without hope.
“I feel the ocean still has much to teach us, and if we look deep enough, all the solutions to a symbiotic and beautiful future lie in the sea,” said Gruber.
For those of us who aren’t marine biologists, merely informed gamers, it can seem even more disheartening. But that doesn’t mean we’re powerless, and Beyond Blue hopes to empower even more gamers with knowledge and awareness of the current situation.
“It was extremely rewarding and inspiring to see people care so much about the ocean because of our game. It brings me hope that there are people out there who love the Earth and I enjoy that games (or other media like this) help spark the stewardship of our planet and ocean in everyone who plays!” said Anna Bakker, the game’s resident ocean scientist.
After playing Beyond Blue, the creative team hopes that players walk away caring just a little bit more about the environment. After all, there are things that all of us can do to help.
“I try to do my part every day in helping the planet - by remembering to refuse, reduce, and reuse plastic, making my own beauty and household products, picking up trash along the beach and on hikes (leave every place cleaner than how you found it!), and reminding my friends and family to do their part too,” explained Bakker.
“I think this game is going to make the deep ocean accessible in a moving way, in a way that really hasn't happened before,” said Joye. Beyond Blue is available on PC and Apple Arcade with console releases planned for PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. For those looking to learn more about the oceans and conservation, check out BBC’s Blue Planet II.