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This gaming experience aims to conserve the Arabian leopard

With just 200 Arabian leopards, Royal Commission for AlUla develops a video game to raise awareness

This gaming experience aims to conserve the Arabian leopard
[Source photo: Pankaj Kirdatt/Fast Company Middle East]

No animal species in the Middle East teeters as close to the brink of extinction as the Arabian leopard. With just 200 Arabian leopards left in the wild, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) lists the species as critically endangered.

In response to this dire situation, Saudi Arabia’s Royal Commission for AlUla (RCU) launched Quest for Hope, a new gaming experience on Roblox and Decentraland, earlier this month. Through immersive gameplay, players know how to conserve and protect the Arabian leopards. 

“Gaming allows us to engage diverse audiences without sacrificing depth of narrative. This innovative approach can mobilize a critical mass of people worldwide who care deeply about the issue, enabling us to build a global community,” says Ahmed Daoud, Executive Director of Innovation at RCU.

However, the question arises, how effective are video games in stirring inspiration and action. 

“Video games are highly effective at immersing players in various contexts, evoking a wide range of emotions,” says Daoud. He emphasizes the power of gamification in engineering specific emotional responses toward the endangered species.

Research indicates that games can boost empathy by enabling players to adopt different perspectives. Citing a Valencia Polytechnic University in Spain study, Daoud says immersive gaming experiences can induce significant changes in attitudes, decrease denial, and increase empathy. 

“By incorporating human-wildlife interaction into games, players gain a more profound understanding of conservation, surpassing traditional educational methods,” he adds.


The game features multiple levels and mini-worlds of varying difficulty to engage players with different narrative aspects.

One of the unique features of Quest for Hope is that it will penalize you for getting too close to an Arabian leopard. 

The game is inspired by an Arabian leopard cub born at RCU’s Arabian Leopard Conservation Breeding Centre in Taif, KSA, in 2022. Daoud says that the center had seven more cubs in 2023 as the species’ population increases in a safe environment in preparation for eventual reintroduction to the wild.

There is a pressing need for innovative approaches to conservation in the face of mounting environmental challenges.

“I have always believed that building products people love and care about will make them more likely to care about your mission and its success.”


A task as mammoth as conservation requires effort and set targets. 

Developing the game reflected the urgency, and it took almost a year to develop from concept to console.

“Most of that time was invested in concept creation and balancing between the sometimes conflicting priorities of creating a fun and engaging game, all the while making sure the narrative around the Arabian leopard is obsessively crafted to increase players’ understanding and emotional investment in the conservation of this magnificent creature.”

Honing the fun element in serious issues like conservation was crucial to its development. 

“When all conservation efforts vie for the attention of audiences through video games, how fun the games are may have a measurable impact on how much support the conservation effort gets.”

While an entire immersive journey awaits players, the sobering reality is the real-world impact of the endangered species. 

“We’re at the very frontlines of the evolution of this approach. While we aim for the best outcome, it is important not to ignore the potential long-term ramifications in terms of new appetites and adverse effects this might give rise to,” Daoud says.

The intersection of storytelling, gameplay mechanics, and conservation adds depth to the challenges faced by the Arabian leopard.

Daoud says, “We hope the game conveys a sense of urgency.”

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Rachel Clare McGrath Dawson is a Senior Correspondent at Fast Company Middle East. More