So, today isnational get outside day. A day designed to encourage parents and carers to take their kids out of doors and enjoy the natural environment. As a concept it’s a wonderful idea, but does it just have to happen once a year? Certain
ly not! The question is how can we as advocates of the great outdoors capture the attention of those who don’t share our passion and encourage them to get out and do!
There are huge amounts of research at the moment showing children spend far too much time indoors, especially in urban or inner city areas. The draw of PlayStation and Xboxes – one of the most common household entertainment items – is difficult to contend with. Why go out and create your own fun when predesigned, nearly packaged fun already exists at the flick of a switch.
Now I’m not going to do the traditional “in my day we didn’t have X stations and Playboxes” rant, in fact for my generation, Consoles and computers were the newest thing. Not everyone had one, but everyone wanted one. I would go to my friends house, just to play his Nintendo as my parents wouldn’t buy one mostly because of the belief it was the last thing I needed, so I was bought a Commodore Amiga- under the guise it had a keyboard so I could use it to do work.
However as I got older, we as a family joined the technological age. Despite my avid love of the outdoors I was hooked on computers, and I still am to some extent. I suppose the difference is, I found it easy to step away and focus one something else; most of the time.
As the game industry evolves, they are becoming more adept at creating content that hooks adults and children alike. A quick look at the recently published and highly popular “Fortnite” franchise and you can see the use of colour, cartoonesque worlds, humour, mild violence and swanky dance moves. All of these appeal to children along with the competitive nature of the game an it’s multiple levels. It’s no wonder it’s so popular.
The game is a work of genius. A multi platform experience all wrapped up in an active virtual world they can log in and out of. Users can create their own versions of themselves and from behind a screen live a fantasy. Sold as “free” it’s widely downloaded but making huge amounts of revenue from paid content within the game for upgrades and passes. Someone up top is making a huge amount of money.
So what does this mean for our industry? Well it could be the death knell or it could be an inspiration. Events like #nationalgetoutsideday in my opinion are poorly thought out; not that I am knocking the effort, not at all, however throwing out a small campaign encouraging parents to get outdoors with kids on a Sunday, as the weather gets colder, is going to present a challenge, especially to those who don’t live near a park, forest, moor or mountain. And I would hazard a guess Sunday’s are one of the few days working parents get to lie in and are happy to let their children play consoles until lunch time, if not the whole day while they get on with washing, cleaning and chores.
Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s a great idea, but it’s reach is limited to those who are already keen to advocate the outdoors, what is needed is a far greater push to draw on those more likely to venture into the virtual rather than the vital. This requires presenting an alternative – activities coordinated around the country to encourage participation in something new. Soft archery in the park, climbing in the car park etc. We need an incentive to encourage parents and children to get out of their urban routine and come to see what the fuss is all about – maybe then they will be happy to lay down the PlayStation and take in the outdoors?