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Photo by Sonja Sommerfeld / TPWD

PARK SPOTLIGHT

Arcade Game Created for Monahans


Can video games happily coexist with outdoor recreation? At Monahans Sandhills State Park, the answer is yes. The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department exhibit shop has constructed and installed a Nintendo-inspired ’80s-style arcade game to connect the heart and minds of visitors to the resources of the state park.

Monahans Sandhills State Park encompasses nearly 4,000 acres of sand dunes and sandhills, an ecosystem unlike any other in Texas, with surprising diversity. The video game educates visitors on one of the unique geologic features of the park — perched water tables, which provide water for wildlife.

“The water tables are why this whole place is populated and has been since prehistory,” says Dana Younger, exhibits manager for Texas state parks. “It can be a complicated thing to talk about, so we created a video game to give kids and adults an idea of why this area is out there.”

In the game, the player becomes a cloud that needs to transform into a thundercloud to provide rain to plants, wildlife and the perched water tables. There are many obstacles in the game that can prevent the player from releasing rain. The rainwater accumulation is set to reflect the actual 12 inches of rain the area receives yearly. Educational blurbs guide the way through the three-level game.

People can easily take what they learn about the perched water tables, trees and wildlife seen in the game and translate it to what is right before their eyes at the park. The game is simple for kids and appeals to the nostalgia for ’80s arcade machines.

This first-of-its-kind project sparked a lot of fun for the exhibit shop staff: Todd Weinzierl, an avid gamer and graphic designer, designed the game; Stephen Garrett, interpretive planner for the project, wrote the game content; Tom Lamm, shop fabricator, created the vintage arcade cabinet; and Eric Ray, lead interpretive planner, figured out the controllers.

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