Close shot of Jane Ji.

Springbay Studio: gamifying environmental stewardship

As we’re navigating a global pandemic and a just, green recovery, we want to amplify the stories of those that are working harder than ever for a low-carbon future. We’re profiling each of our 16 ventures in Earth Tech – CSI Climate Ventures’ accelerator for startups and nonprofits working on climate and freshwater solutions.

As a veteran game designer, Jane Ji understands the power of gaming and the impact it can have on children. And as a mother, she has deep concerns about the environment that her children and future generations will inherit. Jane co-founded Springbay Studio with the goal of using her gaming skillset to take action on climate change and give hope to future generations.

“Springbay Studio’s mission is to nurture an eco-focused mindset through games,” Jane said. “We gamify children’s environmental first steps to inspire them to take action and become lifelong learners and doers.”

In Springbay Studio’s iBiome game series, kids can build intricate ecosystems, explore what makes them flourish, and experience how human impacts like plastic pollution and climate change affect nature. The iBiome games focus on essential, water-based environments like wetlands, oceans, and polar regions.

Gameplay from Springbay Studio's iBiome series
Kids earn badges as they progress through the game

“Our dream is that through our work, we can tap into young players’ critical thinking skills and extraordinary passion for all living things,” Jane said. “Through gaming, kids can discover the wonder and fragility of our natural world, experience the impact climate change is having on its inhabitants, and get inspired to take action on reducing their eco-footprint.”

Sink or swim

Springbay Studio’s award-winning games have been recognized by the United Nations Environment Programme and were adopted by hundreds of North American schools. Worldwide, the iBiome games have reached hundreds of thousands of players.

After such positive reception for their games, Springbay Studio’s biggest challenge is finding the right business model. “Earth Tech taught us the importance of business models and helped us to get an idea of our future path,” Jane said. “This is critical for our growth.”

They’re currently exploring ways to connect with other organizations that care about environmental education for children. They partnered with a scientific organization for their latest game, and they’ve caught the attention of several school boards. They plan to validate their business model with board-level piloting this year.

From the sea to the screen

Jane wants us to rethink what interactive digital games can do for environmental education. “A lot of naturalists and parents see mainstream video games in a negative light,” she said. “But we can’t ignore the impact that digital media can have on climate change if used properly. Technology impacts everything—not only the way we live and work, but also how we interpret the world around us.”

Gameplay from Springbay Studio's iBiome - Arctic game
Kids can build and explore bio domes in Springbay Studio’s iBiome game series

Springbay Studio’s latest game, iBiome-Changing Ice, invites kids to apply their in-game learning to their daily habits. In Changing Ice, kids can delve into climate change scenarios and get inspired to set up goals for their meat consumption, transportation, and recycling. They can then use augmented reality technology to track how their real-world choices are reducing their environmental footprint.

“The most I can do for our sustainable future is to make engaging, educational gaming experiences that give the next generation hope and inspire them to take action,” Jane said. “Interactive media can help kids better understand our relationship with our environment, and how we can live with nature in harmony.”

Learn more about Springbay Studio here.

Learn more about Earth Tech and meet the other ventures here. Earth Tech is made possible because of our partners: RBC FoundationBullfrog PowerVancity Community Investment Bank (VCIB), and WWF-Canada.