Part One: Integrating a game into your lessons
1. Decide what to teach. Start with your list of Principles and Concepts you want to teach in the semester. Games are good for conveying vocabulary and facts, but their true advantage is in conveying abstract or complex concepts.
2. Find a game. Consult the list of video games at the ScienceGameCenter.org. Game suggestions welcomed, and your reviews and comments needed). Choose the game that conveys the concepts and principles (sort games by subject). Make sure that the chosen game will work on your classroom’s computers (sort games by platform).
3. Design your lecture to draw on game’s graphics, situations and names. Use the video game as an introduction to the concepts. Choose vocabulary and graphics that highly correlate with those of the video game. Our data shows that students who play Immune Attack are more confident in their ability to understand graphics that are similar to Immune Attack than different styled graphics of the same types of cells.
4. Address misconceptions. Every model is an imperfect representation of reality, so consider which aspects of the game (graphics or gameplay) may be misleading and that you may wish to directly address in your class. For example, the cells in Immune Attack are drawn to represent the H&E stained cells we are familiar with in text books. However, unstained cells, and live cells under a light microscope do not look this way. After introducing H&E stained cells, that look similar to the ones in Immune Attack, you could follow up with live cells pictured through a light microscope, for example.
5. Play related games/use related models. Playing a related science game will show the students a different model of the same thing. Cellcraft shows a different mRNA model than EteRNA. Both games about mRNA, but Cellcraft puts mRNA in the context of a cell and players use mRNA to make proteins. In EteRNA, players fold up the 2D RNA molecules and learn about base pairing.
6. Show students the game objects are real. Find relevant Wikipedia pages, research articles, and research labs that address the principles and concepts so that students can find more information about the topics and continue their own exploration. This is similar to reading the story behind your favorite characters/tools in video games and movies.
7. Have your students review the game at ScienceGameCenter.org. Give them extra credit for a critical thinking essay. Give them credit for discussing the role of mRNA in a cell and whether the game simplified the roll or provided a good introduction.
8. Some fun follow ups. Have the students write a report on anything they discovered from the game that addresses a current research issue. Maybe they learned mRNA is related to a disease…. Have your students re-design the game, design the next level, or add new tools/characters to the game. Ask them to explain why they choose what they did and what the player should learn from their additions.