Seeing the world through a fish-eye lens

by Alan Zisman (c) 1999. First published in Toronto Computes, January, 1999

Salmon  Odyssey
Available on Macintosh CD and floppy
From: Ingenuity Works, Burnaby, BC 1-800-665-0667
$79.95 (discounted pricing for classroom labpacks)

Here on Canada?s West Coast, salmon aren?t just big business?they?re part of the local mythology, part of the region?s self-identity.

So where else would you expect to find salmon software?

Salmon Odyssey, from Burnaby, BC-based IngenuityWorks is sort of like SimCity, only from a salmon?s point of view. There?s a SimCity-like interface, with wide-angle and close-up maps, and a range of tools to click for detailed reports on things that matter.

Only here, what matters is what?s important to a salmon. Things like water temperature and oxygen supply. Because you are a salmon, trying to go upriver to spawn. Dangers abound?pollutants, hungry bears and other fish, and humans fishing.

Salmon Odyssey follows the life-cycle of a salmon, through 14 missions. You learn to control the salmon with your mouse, and quickly learn not to swim against fast water, and how to jump over obstacles like rapids or waterfalls. Unlike a real salmon, you have access to a range of information, and views of your surroundings (few if any salmon get an aerial-view of their streams). You learn when and where it?s best to spawn.

Through the missions, you can guide the salmon through the five stages of their life cycle, from egg to alevin, to fry, smolt, and adult spawner. Success consists in returning from the ocean with as many fish surviving as possible. As missions become more difficult, you must successfully swim through white water rapids, industrial and mining zones, logging, farmland, and city waterways. Users begin to realize the impact of civilization upon the natural world.

Children from 9 up will find it a nice use of the computer, combining fun with learning about the salmon and its ecology. Recommended for home and classroom. Teachers will appreciate the Resource Guide for classroom use, including lesson plans for extending the learning beyond the computer. Available for Macintosh only.

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Alan Zisman is a Vancouver educator, writer, and computer specialist. He can be reached at E-mail Alan