WIRED: I threw him an apple. And then I also added the bow tie and graduation hat with the in-game editing tools.
Groo: I think the bow tie is cute. I wish the hat wasn’t cut. And I don’t like him to be uncomfortable. I totally understand the need for people to interact with what’s happening on the screen, but what if there was a little receptacle in the background and it was like, oh, you have to throw a ball into the receptacle near the animal. Something where the object of the strike was not the actual animal. God, there are so many geniuses that they worked on this game. Could they have found other ways of engagement than provoking an animal?
WIRED: Do you think that right now, during the pandemic, when everyone doesn’t have access to nature and can’t necessarily get to it, an experience like this is valuable?
Groo: I think there is no substitute for the real thing. The benefits that nature gives us, even if you are just walking in an urban park, far surpass anything you are going to get from a screen. But if they can teach people something about the importance of land to an animal – every animal needs a home, and animals have very specific types of homes that they need, then if there are has something about animal conservation, that’s a good thing. If we have the feeling that there is this world rich in wildlife, something more fantastic and astonishing than we can dream of. It would be great if the game had something like, “Go see wild animals, respect them and protect them!” or a disclaimer like, “Please don’t throw things away.” Please do not feed the wildlife. It’s a game. “Do they have this anywhere?
WIRED: I haven’t beaten the game yet.
Groo: I highly recommend that they add something like this. If they want me to advise them, I’m happy to.
WIRED: Can you tell from these photos if I have a natural talent for photography?
Groo: You could be on your way. You have a good understanding of composition and good lighting concepts. You just need to get out there and practice the real thing.
Groo and me discussed the importance of nature photography for conservation efforts. I asked him what was the role of nature photography in conservation and if stakeholders would understand the role of nature photographers in environmental protection and awareness.
Groo: There is a whole kind of photography now conservation photograph, where photographers work really hard to use their photos and to take photos that are sort of narrative photos of an animal and its habitat. Then they try to find ways to use those photos to raise awareness, to get people to care about a particular animal or the landscape that animal depends on. They want to find different ways to get the word out and educate people, to kind of broaden people’s sympathies, and that’s really my job.
And, more and more, I think nature photographers are realizing that it’s not enough to take pretty pictures anymore. The state of the world – the fact that we’re in the Sixth Great Extinction – people are realizing, “OK, I have to use my photos to make a difference.” And ethics is a big part of it. How can we be there as curatorial photographers, and not disturb or disturb our subjects and instead honor them? How do we really come out with natural photos where the animal does not seem disturbed by us? And how can we walk away without leaving a trace, without hurting?