WIRED: I threw him an apple. And then I also added the bow tie and graduation hat with the in-game editing tools.
Groo: I think the bow tie is cute. I wish the hat wasn’t cut. And I don’t like him to be uncomfortable. I totally understand the need for people to interact with what’s happening on the screen, but what if there was a little receptacle in the background and it was like, oh, you have to throw a ball into the receptacle near the animal. Something where the object of the strike was not the actual animal. God, there are so many geniuses that they worked on this game. Could they have found other ways of engagement than provoking an animal?
WIRED: Do you think that right now, during the pandemic, when everyone doesn’t have access to nature and can’t necessarily get to it, an experience like this is valuable?
Groo: I think there is no substitute for the real thing. The benefits that nature gives us, even if you are just walking in an urban park, far surpass anything you are going to get from a screen. But if they can teach people something about the importance of land to an animal – every animal needs a home, and animals have very specific types of homes that they need, then if there are has something about animal conservation, that’s a good thing. If we have the feeling that there is this world rich in wildlife, something more fantastic and astonishing than we can dream of. It would be great if the game had something like, “Go see wild animals, respect them and protect them!” or a disclaimer like, “Please don’t throw things away.” Please do not feed the wildlife. It’s a game. “Do they have this anywhere?
WIRED: I haven’t beaten the game yet.
Groo: I highly recommend that they add something like this. If they want me to advise them, I’m happy to.
WIRED: I’ll let them know. In the game, you have a rival photographer who is jealous of the great photos you take. Have you ever had a rival photographer?
Groo: There is no doubt that photography can be very competitive. There are so many photographers out there. Digital photography has made incredible photos accessible to almost anyone. There are so many talented people out there. Social media is just inundated with mind-boggling clichés. Everyone is trying to raise the bar and get a spectacular photo for more likes, comments and followers. And so on. There is definitely a competitive advantage there. Some people don’t really see photography as a way to celebrate nature as much as a way to compete and get trophies. It’s almost like the modern version of trophy hunting. They leave, they get shot, and they take the next step. For them, it is about accumulating, collecting and cataloging. But it’s like any profession, where there are people who are competitive and people who are not necessarily there for the best reasons. So I wouldn’t say it’s unusual in any way from any other hobby or profession.
WIRED: Can you tell from these photos if I have a natural talent for photography?
Groo: You could be on your way. You have a good understanding of composition and good lighting concepts. You just need to get out there and practice the real thing.
Groo and me discussed the importance of nature photography for conservation efforts. I asked him what was the role of nature photography in conservation and if stakeholders would understand the role of nature photographers in environmental protection and awareness.