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Mar 18, 2019

Why does a game about birds appeal to so many people? John Iadarola and game designer Elizabeth Hargrave break it down on The Damage Report. Follow The Damage Report on Facebook:
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“Wingspan,” an eclectic new board game that transforms players into avian enthusiasts working to attract visitors to competing wildlife preserves, boasts a level of scientific rigor typically unseen in the gaming world.
As Siobhan Roberts reports for The New York Times, creator Elizabeth Hargrave—a self-proclaimed “spreadsheet geek” and avid birder—crafted “Wingspan” with mathematical precision: Drawing on data from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s eBird citizen-science project and All About Birds portal, as well as Audubon’s online guide to North American birds, Hargrave made a massive spreadsheet detailing information such as habitat, wingspan, red-list status and diet. At one point, the document reached a staggering size of 596 rows by nearly 100 columns.
To turn this treasure trove of factoids into a playable gaming experience, Hargrave collaborated with Stonemaier Games. Jamey Stegmaier, co-founder and president of the game publishing company, tells Audubon magazine’s Shaymus McLaughlin that he was instantly intrigued by Hargrave’s description of “Wingspan,” explaining, “There’s something about birds that instantly captures a human desire to collect, sort, and admire.”
Building on the standard of scientific integrity set by Hargrave’s research, Stegmaier recruited artists Natalia Rojas and Ana Maria Martinez Jaramillo to create life-like illustrations of the avian creatures at the heart of the game. Each gaming set features 170 unique bird cards replete with vital statistics, game-specific notes such as point values and special powers, and eye-catching colored pencil renderings of the species in question."
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