I’ve been surfing the Web a lot lately. I’m just not a sports fan and I don’t have a TV anyway so it’s no surprise that I’ve been antisocially evaluating my online options more industriously as of late.

So while you’re watching the Super Bowl tonight, I’m busy playing WolfQuest, an online game for devotees of basic wolf biology and wildlife concerns in general.

Produced in association with the Minnesota Zoo, this game lets you select a wolf avatar complete with realistic coat colors, among other fun phenotypes. In your wolf clothing you then get to explore four square kilometers of alpine wilderness in Yellowstone National Park—meadows, forests and cliffs, all rendered in realistic detail.

Your wolf avatar can hunt elk, following the scent trail of your game. He can seek other wolves in similar fashion and join a pack of his choosing. Hungry? Chase and consume snowshoes hares or harass coyotes for kicks.

It’s all good clean fun, even if it does rely heavily on our salacious human interest in the lupine killer instinct.

As the mother of an avid WolfQuest player, I’ve got to say this game is one role-playing compufantasy that’s earned my vote of confidence. No guns! No guts! No blood! Hooray!

While my own video game preferences run towards “Dance Dance Revolution Universe” and “Rock Band” (I like to get some exercise and hone my coordination skills), my son is a role playing/strategy game fanatic (a chess scholarship recipient in the making, I hope).

That’s why I think I’m able to offer a ten year-old’s professional opinion on the success of this wildlife adventure game. In short, this is a great concept—but its execution needs some work. While the graphics are awesome, the controls are flimsy and somewhat frustrating (turning is especially problematic).

It’s clear that we need more games like this to publicize the plight of our wildlife, but to do so effectively it needs to work as well as its more violent role-playing game competitors (e.g., World of Warcraft, Halo, etc.).

Sure, you have to start somewhere (kudos to the Minnesota Zoo for ponying up the basics), but an industry sponsor is inevitable for the optimal execution and serious exposure games like this deserve. So Godspeed, WolfQuest! Without your ilk it would be blood and guts all weekend.

Oh, and one more suggestion courtesy of the ten year-old: Tone down the mating thing. “Eeew” is his direct quote on the prospect of picking a wolf mate. I guess the concept of wolf sex isn’t exactly enticing to the younger players among us, biologically appropriate though it may be. Maybe a rated G version for the prepubescent? Just a thought.