A few weeks ago, I received an unusual request. Sara Kilpatrick, co-owner of indie studio Hero Factor Games contacted Joe Morgan and me directly. She cited her team’s admiration of what we have been doing here at Geeks Under Grace for almost five years, while engaging geek culture with the love of Christ, and encouraging other Christians in geekdom like to do the same. Understanding the plentiful harvest with few workers, she acknowledged that our target audience is not well-reached.
This uplifting encouragement for us to continue fighting the good fight emanates from empathy. Kilpatrick and her husband believe that they were called by God to produce high-quality video games that promote a Christian worldview, such as the responsibility of humanity to be stewards of Creation. Now this might make some readers flinch, given the reputation of ”Christian movies,” but I can vouch that their mobile puzzle game Pangolin’s Puzzle has the makings of a product to be commended rather than lambasted.
This is because Hero Factor Games has created a game with an unusual but interesting topic concerning pangolins. When Kilpatrick described to me what a pangolin was, I recalled one of the newer DotA 2 heroes, Pangolier, was surprised to learn that unlike his contemporary fairy hero, Dark Willow, he is not based upon a fictional concept. In fact, Pangolin’s Puzzle is part of a larger effort to ensure that pangolins do not follow the path of the dodo bird and become fiction through extinction.
As I would discover through both playing Pangolin’s Puzzle as well as some Google-Fu, pangolins are the world’s most trafficked animal, with eight species split between Africa and Asia. In Africa, they are mostly hunted for meat; in China and Vietnam, where demand is most intense, pangolins are considered not only a delicacy, but they are also associated with superstitious beliefs tied to improved health. The Asian demand for pangolins has increased trafficking in Africa.
Pangolin’s Puzzle, then, serves a threefold purpose, with Trinitarian implications even in the context of a Christian developer being coincidental. First, the game has to be fun, and from what I played, its entertainment is not only tied to figuring out the puzzles (the second “level” pictured above is a doozy, though things get easier from there), but also how it educates players about pangolins. For example, though they eat ants, they are not associated with aardvarks or echidnas, but share properties similar to carnivores. Another factoid: pangolin tongues are as long as their entire bodies, for they extend to the pits of their stomachs! I remember learning about echidnas being one of only two egg-laying mammals in the world through playing Sonic 3 when I was a kid; playing Pangolin’s Puzzle, then, appeals to my affinity for Jeopardy knowledge.
The third purpose of Pangolin’s Puzzle is to evangelize. The mother of Katiti the pangolin espouses wisdom such as sensible and responsible consumption of God’s provision. This is an approach to conservation that I am unaccustomed, and without the lobbying of some of the unsavory lobbyists that place the animal kingdom over humanity. In other words, Hero Factor Games argues that through taking care of nature, we are being obedient to God, as indicated in Genesis 1:26.
Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”
I write this not only as per Kilpatrick’s request, but also because February 16th is World Pangolin Day. Armed with the knowledge that God’s creation is being devastated by black market mechanisms, it would be irresponsible for me to fail to raise awareness. Pangolin’s Puzzle is $3.99 on both the iTunes App Store and Google Play (Android). 50% of all profits are donated to organizations dedicated to saving pangolins; given all that I would support though these purchases, I happily paid for the one-time hint booster which was $2.99 or so, though the game caps any expenses at $5.99 for infinite hints.
If you are not interested in Pangolin’s Puzzle, you can still help by reading, circulating, and/or giving to the organizations below.