Vermont-made Video Game Teaches Players to Stop Stormwater Runoff

BURLINGTON - Thousands of gallons of stormwater runoff have surged through the streets of Burlington, Vermont, this spring, picking up dirt, chemicals and trash on the way to Lake Champlain. Now a new Vermont-made video game is raising awareness about ways to reduce stormwater runoff in an effort to protect the Lake.

The new Runoff video game, released today at ECHO Lake Aquarium and Science Center, invites players to use a rain barrel to catch rain before it enters city storm drains. When the barrel is full, players empty it in a garden, which filters the water before it soaks into the aquifer (underground beds of rock, sediment or soil that hold water) or reaches our rivers and lakes.

Burlington-based Birnam Wood Games developed the classic, 8-bit-inspired video game for independent newsweekly Seven Days and its monthly parenting publication, Kids VT. The staff of ECHO helped guide Runoff's development and offered to host the arcade version of the game as an exhibit this summer.

Child playing Runoff Game at ECHOThis week ECHO visitors had their first opportunity to play Runoff at a refurbished arcade cabinet generously provided and outfitted by Logic Supply of South Burlington and Subatomic Digital of Williston. Sacha Bortolan of Montréal, Quebec, was the first ECHO guest to play the game (download photo). The 8-year-old racked up more than 700,000 points during the 90-second game. When asked what he thought of it, he responded in French. "He likes it," said his mother, Nancy Nobert.

Runoff is also playable for free online, in a web or mobile browser, at A free app for Apple devices will be available soon for download on iTunes.

Runoff familiarizes players with rain barrels and will literally help improve water quality in the Lake: For each of the first 1000 games played, Seven Days and Kids VT will donate a quarter to the Let It Rain stormwater program, which provides financial incentives for property owners who install rain barrels and implement other stormwater-reduction strategies in Vermont's Lake Champlain Basin.

Kids VT co-publisher and executive editor Cathy Resmer said the idea for the game grew out of the illustrated stormwater story walk that Kids VT created for the Connecting the Drops project, an exhibit of 19 artist-designed rain barrels on display this summer in downtown Burlington. The barrels are installed on a trail that runs from the top of the Church Street Marketplace down College Street to ECHO; one panel of the Kids VT storywalk is mounted atop each rain barrel.

"We wanted to see if we could use a video game as an engine to do something good for the community," said Resmer, who is also an associate publisher of Seven Days. "Luckily, we were able to work with a very talented local crew, including Matt Strauss from Subatomic Digital, who donated the cabinet and printed the artwork on the side; Scott Aguiar and the engineers from Logic Supply who outfitted the cabinet with one of their own custom-designed computers; the ECHO staff, who offered some key suggestions about how interactive exhibits should function; and the Birnam Wood team, all of whom graduated recently from the gaming program at Champlain College. Runoff was a fun, creative project for all of us that will hopefully entertain and educate the people who play it."

The Runoff arcade game will be hosted by ECHO through Labor Day on the top floor outside of the Lake Champlain Basin Program Resource Room.

"At ECHO we are always looking for new ways for guests to explore how they can personally make a difference in the health of Lake Champlain and its rivers and streams. This is a fun, educational, and family-friendly video game that demonstrates how catching rain in barrels - and occasionally cats, but you'll have to play it to figure that out - can create a positive ripple effect in your own community," said Julie Silverman, ECHO's Director of New.

Connecting the Drops is sponsoring a Wednesday night Church Street concert series in July, organized by ArtsRiot and Signal Kitchen. Runoff will be playable at the Kids VT table there. Find more information about the concert series and the Connecting the Drops project at

Founded in 1878, Champlain College is a small, not-for-profit, private college in Burlington, Vermont, with additional campuses in Montreal, Canada, and Dublin, Ireland. Champlain offers a traditional undergraduate experience from its beautiful campus overlooking Lake Champlain and over 90 residential undergraduate and online undergraduate and graduate degree programs and certificates. Champlain's distinctive career-driven approach to higher education embodies the notion that true learning occurs when information and experience come together to create knowledge. Champlain College is included in the Princeton Review's The Best 384 Colleges: 2019 Edition. For the fourth year in a row, Champlain was named a "Most Innovative School" in the North by U.S. News & World Report's 2019 "America's Best Colleges,” and a “Best Value School” and is ranked in the top 100 “Regional Universities of the North” and in the top 25 for “Best Undergraduate Teaching.” Champlain is also featured in the Fiske Guide to Colleges for 2019 as one of the "best and most interesting schools" in the United States, Canada and Great Britain and is a 2019 College of Distinction. For more information, visit