I admit it… in my “spare” time (read avoiding the laundry or dishes), I really do enjoy a good old game of Pioneer Trail, Castleville, or even Farmville. There has always been something soothing to me in accomplishing the games’ tasks (since clearly I was not crossing anything off my actual TO DO list!!)
Imagine my delight, then, when I read recently that Disney had launched its own version of a Facebook interactive game: Disney Animal Kingdom Explorers. I signed up in a heartbeat and have happily played for much of the weekend.
The concept is much the same as some other popular Facebook games: you are charged with working to expand your own safari area by accomplishing tasks, visiting neighbors, and playing games. You earn points and rewards through timed “find the object” games, all of which are set within natural environments. Many of the “find the object” challenges require you to know what different animals look like; for those of you who are unfamiliar with the coloring of a common agama, the habitat of a kinkajou, or the shape of an acacia tree–this game will teach you that as well, giving the game an educational component I do not get while feeding my patriotic juggling bear or harvesting cupcake plants in my other games.
A major difference between this game and others I have played is that the setting is inspired from an actual place: Disney’s Animal Kingdom park. The Tree of Life, Harambe, Anandapur, as well as scenes from the recently-released Disney Nature movie “Chimpanzee” are all involved in the game. (For a simulated video of game play, check the Disney Parks Blog announcement of the game.)
There are, of course, options to spend money for advantages in the game as well as premium-level boards, though I am having a great time without feeling the need to spend additional funds on the game. As long as you have a Facebook account, you can play for free and use plenty of your “free time” interacting and learning about animals. You also will get a healthy education on the dangers of poaching and the importance of treasuring our natural environment.
The game also has tabs with additional information about the Animal Kingdom, linking directly to the Walt Disney World site, for those who need a more direct Disney fix.
One of the aspects of the game I am enjoying so far is the interaction with fellow Disney fans, many of whom I asked for their thoughts on the game (see below.) It’s one additional way for me to enjoy the company, albeit in a cyber environment, of some great people with a game that celebrates what brought us to be be friends in the first place. (I would not have met any of these amazing individuals were it not for our mutual love for Disney AND WDW Radio!)
The game also stirs my inner Wanna-be Imagineer…. what other interactive/simulation games could Disney develop? How cool would it be to have a similar game set in EPCOT, where players interact within each of the nations of the World Showcase? Or how about one set in Disney’s Hollywood Studios that featured classic Disney movies? Why not highlight the Disney resort hotels with a simulation game that features the backdrops of these vacation destinations? Disney could incorporate a way for players to earn special rewards for their game when they visit the parks, giving players another way to enhance the already rich park experience.
Overall, I am having a grand time playing the game, and my children LOVE to look over my shoulder and help me to find the hidden animals. Ever a student, I am enjoying the fact that the game requires a type of skill, and I appreciate the social consciousness it brings the player. I am very hopeful that this is a sign of future Disney social media ventures that will bring the park experience to those of us who are far from the parks and longing for another trip to The World.
I asked some WDW Radio blog writers who have been playing along with me to share their thoughts on the game. Here is what they had to say:
Darby Yakomoto, Disneyland Expert, WDW Radio Exchange: “Disney’s Animal Kingdom on Facebook is the perfect blend of sim building (buying animals, expanding your savannah, etc) and the newest fad of finding hidden objects (Harambe Train Station for example). Not only is it very addicting with continuous quests & competing for high scores, but it’s also the first Disney game on Facebook AND it’s based on a Disney theme park! How cool is that?”
Yaelle Sajkowicz, New York City area contributor:“As someone who is a big fan of both Disney and social games, I was very excited to learn about the launch of Animal Kingdom Explorers for Earth Day and began playing as soon as it was available. The concept is very similar to other hidden object search games – find as many items on your search list as quickly as you can – with the added bonus that the scenes feature familiar landmarks such as the Tree of Life and Harambe Train Station that give me very welcome doses of Disney throughout my day. I have found myself returning to the game regularly now (although I do skip most of the popup dialogue boxes in order to jump to the actual gameplay). In conclusion, Animal Kingdom Explorers gets a definite thumbs up from me.”
Happy Keller, WDW Radio Running Team “Coach”: “While I am THRILLED that there is a Social Networking Game based on one of my favorite (2-Day) Theme Parks, I have to say that the actual game behind the ‘Disney’s Animal Kingdom’ title is just a ‘me too’ effort. There is The Tree Of Life, and Harambe, as well as a tip-of-the-hat to The Lion King, but at its core this is just another ‘hidden item game’ with a Disney veneer plastered over the top of it.
There is a way to do a Disney Social Networking game that would be as innovative as the Parks themselves…this isn’t it. This just feels like Disney directing one of the companies they’ve purchased recently (Playdom) to build them a Disney Theme Park Game.
That being said, I don’t even think that the blame should really go to Disney or Playdom, but to the entire industry building Social Network Games –> There hasn’t been much/any innovation in this space for a long time now. All we are getting is re-hashes of previously successful games (re-skinning is probably more accurate), and all of them still with a painful lack of anything truly ‘social’ going on within the gamespace.
I’d love to help Playdom, or Zynga, or (insert name here) fix this issue, but they haven’t hired me yet!…(yet)…”
Liz Driscoll, WDW Radio Book Club Coordinator: “I am enjoying building the animal park and playing the seek and find games. The animal identification activity in particular is well themed to the Animal Kingdom Park. The safari packing one is fun, but less challenging. I will definitely continue to play, but I’m not sure that it won’t be a passing interest like many Facebook apps.”
What do YOU think? Have you been playing the game? Do you enjoy it? What “Wanna-be Imagineer” ideas do YOU have for other social-media Disney games?