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Not a summer goes by in Canmore without multiple stories about bear/human interactions, usually of the negative kind. Bears are continually entering town searching for easy food - often fruit trees, bird feeders or trash cans - and the town has made a major effort to educate locals and visitors alike that "A Fed Bear Is A Dead Bear".  As part of his 20 Time project, Colin Fearing was interested in creating a video game that could educate the public about what it's like to be a bear continually struggling to find food. 

A player takes the character of a young bear that can wander around a large forested area. Every action consumes precious energy, replenished only by scarce food found through exploration. The player must balance energy and action in order to find enough resources to be properly fattened up for hibernation. The game contains seasons, and as time ticks on the weather changes and snow starts to fall, there is greater urgency to find a suitable den to hibernate.  There is a human village that provides an easy source of food but leads the bear away from natural hibernation spots. 

Here's a quick video of what it's like to play: 

This was actually several projects in one: a crash course in C# programming, a crash course in the Unity game engine, and a large dose of animation and character design. The original idea was to include a "habituation" value that increased as bears spent time around humans eating off easy-to-find fruit trees.  Too much habituation and the bear would be relocated or killed. But, creating a real video game turned out to be a fairly major effort and that particular feature was left for next time. 

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You can find out more about this project on Colin's website. 

You can find out more about the 20 Time project in this nice Rocky Mountain Outlook article.

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