NALP Foundation Builds Roblox Game to Reach the Next Generation - The Edge from the National Association of Landscape Professionals

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NALP Foundation Builds Roblox Game to Reach the Next Generation

The NALP Foundation recently announced their latest awareness initiative, which will focus on young people from ages 5 to 15 through the online gaming platform Roblox. The NALP Foundation is creating a game in partnership with Epic Reach, a global creative and advanced innovation agency.

This game, called Landscape Design Empire, will allow players to design, install and maintain landscapes for a fictional neighborhood, purchase new tools, develop new skills and open new areas by progressing through the game. Players can invite friends to help or share the experience.

“This is a big deal,” says Jenn Myers, executive director of the NALP Foundation & senior director of workforce development. “It’s never been done before. We’re reaching this age group that is so hard to capture.”

What Is Roblox?

For those unfamiliar with the game, Roblox was launched in 2006. It serves as a platform where players can play other user-generated game genres like role-playing, puzzle-solving and simulators. Players can socialize, earn and spend virtual currency and create their own games. 59.3% of the daily active users are ages 12 and under.

It is free to create a Roblox account and it is available on numerous platforms, including mobile devices, gaming consoles and the VR headset Meta Quest. Users can create an avatar and then play through the various games and experiences as well as connect with others.

Roblox is the 3rd most played game on PS4 and PS5 behind Call of Duty and Fortnite. Sixty-five million people across the globe play Roblox daily, with 28% of the user base located in the U.S. and Canada. The average playtime is 2.6 hours per day. The gaming platform experienced an explosion in popularity during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Due to Roblox’s popularity and ease of crafting your own video game within the platform, multiple brands, including Nike, Walmart, Chipotle, Samsung and Gucci have created their own virtual experiences.

One of Roblox’s goals is to move into the educational space by having teachers utilize Roblox to teach subjects such as coding, animation, history and economics. Educational institutions like the U.S. National Parks and The Museum of Science in Boston have crafted experiences on Roblox.

“Everything that we do, we want an EDU component,” Myers says. “We don’t have to, but we want to do that because if it has enough educational oomph, it can maybe get in a classroom where younger kids are learning about plants and how plants grow. Maybe they can learn about it in our game versus in a video.”

Core Game Mechanics

With the NALP Foundation’s game, the general goal will be to create excitement and engagement with Roblox’s core demographic and provide a better understanding of the landscape and lawn care industry.

“It’s not intended to be forcing careers on them,” Myers says. “It’s really about plants and nature and being outside and the environment and beautification. Also, just an overall understanding of all the ways that landscaping impacts your life.”

Players will be able to accept a job, design landscapes, maintain their landscapes and unlock new jobs and new areas as they progress in the game. By playing, users can also earn in-game currency to upgrade their equipment, like going from a push mower to a riding mower.

“We’re trying to have everything revolve around the optimal practices,” Myers says. “When we look at the benefits of healthy landscapes, it’s all about the optimal way to do it. Not the fastest way to do it or doing the most of it. It’s the best way to do it.”

The game is designed so players must design and care for their landscapes so they understand all the components of the industry. Myers says the most popular Roblox games are ones where players have something to care for and where they are able to complete and check off tasks, so Landscape Design Empire will tap into this by giving them plants to care for and NPCs (non-playable characters) telling them what to do. Horticultural facts will also be shared through the game’s loading screen and other places throughout the game.

Myers says they want the game to grow and evolve over many years. A child who started playing it at 6 could still be playing it at 12 and they want to offer more sophisticated game mechanics as they gain experience.

In future updates of the game, Myers expects to branch out from residential landscapes and add commercial spaces for players. Another possible update will feature areas with different climates where the gamers will have to select plants well-suited for those conditions.

“All the plants would be available, but you might get more points if you use plants that grow better in that climate,” Myers says. “Or if you put the wrong ones in, it might be harder to take care of. That way, they can learn and see the connection.”

Myers says success with Landscape Design Empire will focus on whether kids are coming into the game, if they are staying and completing the landscape job loop and if their friends are logging on to play as well.

“I think once it gets out there and people see it, they are going to be impressed,” Myers says. “We are already feeling the excitement from industry professionals and their kids. Will Pereira (NALP Foundation past president) is one. His three girls love it. Will says it’s the first time any of his girls have ever cared about what he does for work.”

Timeline

The initial game release is planned for Jan. 22, following the friends and family testing phase on Jan. 2. During the friends and family testing, Epic Reach will be able to see where kids go into the game, where they stop or restart and where they engage.

“We’ll use that to color not only the release, but all the subsequent updates,” Myers says.

After the release of the game, Epic Reach will be able to provide various metrics, including:

  • Number of players (daily, monthly, all time), repeat players
  • Time spent playing, average per session
  • Most popular (challenges, times to play, items, skills, regions)
  • Player location, native language
  • Starts/completes (challenges, skills, tools)
  • Play session paths, drop points

Myers says the Foundation’s goal is to push out several updates per year.

Ways to Support

Some of the various ways to support this initiative is to spread the word about Landscape Design Empire and encourage players to try it out.

There are also numerous branding opportunities within the game, including branding the equipment and clothing. Myers says they are also open to simple donations towards the game as it all helps fund future updates.

For more information on Landscape Design Empire, check out a sneak peek of the game here.

This article was published in the January/February issue of the magazine. To read more stories from The Edge magazine, click here to subscribe to the digital edition.

Jill Odom

Jill Odom is the senior content manager for NALP.