March 6, 2015

New Game App Seeks to Keep Ellen White Relevant

A computer game meant to teach children about Ellen G. White and make her relevant to the next generation of Adventists was released as a free app for mobile devices.

The game, “Pitcairn,” tests players’ knowledge of White’s life, her relation to the Bible, and the biblical standards that define a true prophet — factors that critics often use to try to discredit the co-founder of the Seventh-day Adventist Church.

Chantal Klingbeil, associate director at the Ellen G. White Estate, which developed “Pitcairn,” said the leap from the red-bound volumes of White’s writings from a half-century ago to an electronic game with rich graphics and spritely music signaled a pressing need to find new ways to educate children about White.

“We are facing a huge crisis,” Klingbeil said. “Less than 2 percent of kids in our academies are interacting with Ellen White once a week, and that’s just hearing a quote from her, not reading her writings.”

Klingbeil, citing figures from the partially released Valuegenesis 3 study in 2010, said she was alarmed by the prospect of White becoming irrelevant to Adventists in North America.

“Within 20 years Ellen White could be insignificant to Adventism if this trend continues,” she said.

So the White Estate decided to try something different for the 2104 camporee that brought thousands of Pathfinders to Oshkosh, Wisconsin, last August. Its directors designed a new Ellen White honor called “God’s Messenger” and made the “Pitcairn” game available for children unable to complete the 90-minute course with a Pathfinder club.

A screenshot taken of "Pitcairn" app gameplay on the iPhone.

An early version of the “Pitcairn” game, outsourced to programmers in India, Bangladesh, and elsewhere, was launched on the White Estate’s website during the camporee. The final version, available in English, French, German, and Spanish, debuted at late last year.

The app stores Google Play and iTunes started offering the game this week.

Players are asked multiple-choice questions as they follow a trail on Pitcairn, a dot in the Pacific that is fondly remembered by many Adventists as the place where the Adventist Church sent its first missionary ship after collecting its first mission offering in 1886.

Winners qualify for a Pathfinder honor badge, the first to be awarded through a computer game. More than 4,000 Pathfinders have received honor badges online.

The White Estate has been looking for other ways to encourage children to read and treasure White’s writings. It features a story once a month in Guide and in KidsView, which is produced by the Adventist Review. It also is planning to launch a child-friendly website and a blog on the website of Guide, an Adventist magazine for children.

Klingbeil said the idea for “Pitcairn” was based on the first Adventist game app, “Heroes the Game,” a popular time-based quiz about Bible heroes that was released in 2013.

Adventist World Radio, meanwhile, is developing a game that teaches players about its operations and engineering by putting them at the helm of its mega station in Guam. Players will have to bounce radio signals off the Earth’s ionosphere to win.

Adventist technology specialists are promoting computer games as a way to educate and evangelize.

“Our challenge as educators is to create a learning experience that is engaging, challenging and achievable,” David P. Harris, vice president for information systems at Loma Linda University, told the Adventist Church’s annual GAiN technology conference. “Games are now on the forefront of reaching people all over the world.”

Back on “Pitcairn,” Pathfinders who have romped around the island seem impressed.

“This game is actually pretty good,” one player wrote on the website of Guide, which has a link to the game. “It tests your knowledge of Ellen G. White and her books.”

“I'm not in Pathfinders,” wrote another, “but if I were I would have gotten my honors :).”