New Zealand beaches come alive in Dreams with litter-free focus

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Two New Zealand beaches have been brought to life in Dreams, as part of a game built to raise awareness about environmental sustainability and the impact of litter on the natural environment.

Called Pick Up Quick!, the game challenges you to pick up as much litter as possible within 45 seconds. It features two levels based on New Zealand beaches—Tokahaki Point, Kāpiti Island and Tāhunanui Beach, Nelson—with data from real-life litter clean-ups informing what you find in the game.

Pick Up Quick! is the creation of Stacey Bartlett, a 25-year-old school administrator from North Canterbury, in collaboration with Sustainable Coastlines. It’s been in development over the course of the last year, and was impressive enough to get the attention and support of Dreams developer Media Molecule.

“I’ve always loved creating things, be it drawing, animation or crochet, and I’d been experimenting with Dreams for a while when Media Molecule approached me,” said Bartlett.

“I’ve been playing PlayStation since I was eight so was excited to be asked, if a little nervous, but I worked closely with the Sustainable Coastlines team to try and make the coastlines as realistic as possible.

“I want people who have visited Tāhunanui Beach in Nelson to play the game, recognise the beach and understand the scale of the problem and then take action to stop the litter getting there in the first place.”

A photograph showing Stacey Bartlett playing Pick Up Quick!

The data used in Pick Up Quick! comes from Litter Intelligence, a programme launched by Sustainable Coastlines in 2018 to build a “national litter database” for New Zealand. The idea behind is to give people the tools to become “Citizen Scientists” and collect robust data about what types of litter are being found and where, which will then allow for a more strategic approach to addressing the problem.

“The level of detail in the game is seriously impressive and it’s a clever use of our data. If everyone who plays the game starts thinking a little harder about their impact on the environment and the changes they can make, then we’re another step closer to solving our litter problem,” said Camden Howitt, co-founder of Sustainable Coastlines and the Litter Intelligence programme.

A screenshot from Pick Up Quick! for Dreams, showing someone standing on Tahunanui Beach

When I reviewed Dreams earlier this year, I said that it’s “going to be a thing that constantly grows and evolves with the community around it.” The trend of “gaming for good” that Pick Up Quick! falls into is a great example of that growth, and something I imagine we’ll see a lot more of in the future. Tools like Dreams are lowering the entry barrier for game development, in turn opening the door to new creative possibilities.

Pick Up Quick! is available now, letting anyone with Dreams for PlayStation 4 visit New Zealand beaches and help keep them beautiful.

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About Author

Matthew is a writer based in Wellington. He loves all things pop culture, and is fascinated by its place in history and the wider social context.