Category Archives: News

Gamestar Mechanic released!

Gamestar Mechanic is now available.  Gamestar Mechanic is a game that you play that teaches you how to design video games.   Designed for 4th – 9th grade students, and intended to teach systems thinking, iterative design and collaborative skills, Gamestar Mechanic is lots of fun.  You can check it out on their website, or download the teacher’s guide, and the press release right here from our website.  And then let us know what you think!

Download the Teacher’s Guide

Gamestar Press Release

NIAID and Innovative Education Programs

Immune Attack 2.0 is being developed with funding from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID).  The NIAID funds research in everything from basic viral replication mechanisms to innovative AIDS treatments, from basic

To read more about the NIAID and their work, you can download their PDF, or see their website.   Today, the NIAID published a report on the educational programs the fund.  And that includes, of course, Immune Attack 2.0.  So, go read the report on all the great innovative work the NIAID is sponsoring for educating the next generation of Scientists!

Benefits of Playing Video Games

Here is a current article that talks about the different benefits of playing video games.

The Office of Naval Research posted an article about its program officer Dr. Ray Perez and his research discussing the benefits of playing video games.

If you’re interested in the subject I found a great paper from 2005 about Learning Games.

The Academic Advanced Distributed Learning Co-Lab members David Williamson Shaffer, Richard Halverson, Kurt R. Squire, and James P. Gee wrote an amazing paper about how video games may be the future of learning. They discuss how video games can teach us so much more than how to use a gun. They discuss how video games can teach a 14 year old politics, a normal person complex modeling, and help kids with cancer take better care of themselves. To find the paper use this link and scroll down to Joint Papers and find the working paper titled “Before every child is left behind: How epistemic games can solve the coming crisis in education.”

Don’t forget the FAS National Summit on Educational Games Report. The summit brought together more than one hundred experts to examine how to harness the power of video games for learning. This report is widely cited and contains a collection of the reasons in favor of using games and simulations in education as well the issues that need to be addressed if industry and education are to be able to collaborate on learning games.

Immune Attack in the press.

Cell Article on Video games 2010

Amy Maxmen wrote an article about Immune Attack for Cell!  Maxmen keeps you up to date about the push from the President and First Lady to make sure we are using video games and all learning technology to their fullest potential.   And then Maxmen summaries what scientists think of video game about science and then what DATA there is suggesting that they work!

The data that is quoted in this article will be published this fall semester.  We are in the final round of evaluations this semester.

Exercise while gaming!

Paul Ballas, OD, of our own Science Advisory Group, wrote an excellent opinion piece for Wired.

Paul thinks that video games that require us to be more active might help us actually become more active.  People exercise more when they can do something fun for exercise, he writes.  Paul suggests that if we rated video games for how active they made us, that the game companies would have a motivation to make their games meet higher standards.

Video games really do capture our attention.  But can they really provide effective exercise?  Dance Dance Revolution (DDR) did…  maybe a starship that you control with the DDR pad could be another fun game… if it isn’t already out there.

The Wii, and now Sony and Microsoft have motion sensing controllers that are making exercise games more popular and potentially more powerful than ever before.

Read the article and let us know what you think!

Want to Design Science Video Games?

We need you!

FAS Educational Technology Program is collaborating with Muzzy Lane Software to create a series of video games that help middle school students and teachers prepare for middle school science proficiency exams.  The collaboration is intended to draw in teachers, students, game designers and anyone interested to contributing to the design of the games.  Since middle school science covers a wide range of topics (Physical, Chemical, Earth and Life sciences) there is something to interest everyone.  The collaboration is called The Clear Lab Project, and is funded by a SBIR grant from DARPA to Muzzy Lane.

To get involved, go to the project website,

Soon, you will be able to access our very first draft of a game design.  You can also find a “Game Design Template,” which is a list of the necessary components of an excellent video game design draft.

I look forward to many rewarding interactions with many of you as we design games for science together!

Get your Newsletter here!

Hello everyone!

Our newsletter will explain our hopes and dreams for Immune Attack, will link you to surveys that are important to us because they let us know what you like and don’t like about Immune Attack.  Our Newsletter will also give you information about educational video games, science games and molecular science happenings in particular.  So read it HERE.  And if you are not receiving it already, send us your email now! (Newsletter will be once a month.)

Thank you!



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Where to find Science Games

Here is the list of science games that we are continuously updating for you.


Flash Games played over the web:

MedMyst (about hunting down infectious diseases)

CSI:The Experience (just like the show, only you need to use your own brain!)

N-Squad You take on the role of a forensic scientist, solving crimes and investigating mysterious deaths.

Cellcraft is a real time strategy game in which you play the role of a cell trying to defeat a virus before they defeat you.  An excellent intro to cell biology for middle school.


Downloads for PC and Mac:

The Curse of Brownbeard is Middle School game about pirates who need someone to figure out why they are getting sick… The Curse of Brownbeard.  Teaches experimental design.  How cool is that??

Metablast! at is still in development, but it promises to be a fantastic journey into a plant cell…  in a microbot (which is our favorite way to travel) and will present proteins in their accurate form…..  Very exciting!  Their Educator’s community if very nice, too.


Available through My Game IQ (free download manager program that is PC only).

Immune Attack  (We are in the top 8 games on My Game IQ right now!  (4/01/2011).  Free PC download.

Surge harnessing the power of video games to help students build a strong intuitive/tacit understanding of the physics involved.  Free PC download through MyGameIQ.

Science Pirates: The Curse of Brownbeard helps students understand science processes to better change food safety behavior.

Re-Mission a third person shooter game about killing cancer cells.  Find on mygameiq, too.

Enercities is a game created to teach the importance of energy and conservation by the European Union.


Games being built–that you can contribute to!

Our collaborators at Clear Lab, where we are creating a battery of fun SCIENCE! games for middle school students!  Sign up to be a part of the development team!


Other Fantastic Sites with some science games available:

Molecules is a site with great videos about chemicals in our everyday life and some games.  See what Sweden is up to!

Games for change has several game about the environment.

NISE has some games about nanotechnology.  Nanoscale Informal Science Education Network.

Science Netlinks has many things for teaching… some are games, some are not…   Immune Attack is described at Netlinks, too!  (Still downloads at


Tablet Games!

A link to ALL EDUCATIONAL GAMES on Apple’s App Store.

ImmunityHD is a fun game in which you need to keep the intestinal epithelium clear of infection.  Good luck!  This intestine belongs to an adventurous eater!  On iPad…  at iTunes App store.

Virulent is an experimental game by the cool guys at Madison Wisconsin, and the Morgridge Institute for Research.  In the game you play a virus, and you have to infect your host cells to win.  The game is still underdevelopment, so check it out and keep up with the updates!


Other sites you really should know about.

Harvard Biovisions has created beautiful videos of the molecules inside of cells.  Xvivo is the company who actually makes them…  great career inspiration for your young computer programmers and 3D modelers.

Stem Video Game Challenge! Get your students involved in the next middle school STEM Video Game Challenge! Watch the video of the inaugural winners!  Kids submitted video games in Gamestar Mechanic, Game Maker, Small Basic, and some submitted written game design documents.  All the games submitted were fun to play, innovative and educational.

And contact Melanie Stegman, yours truly, if you have High School students interested in entering a Molecular Biology video game competition in Spring 2012.

A History of Immune Attack

Nanobot searches for Selectin so that the Monocytes can transmigrate... and save Roz.


2001 The Beginning:  Gathering Evidence.

The Federation of American Scientists started gathering research about how technology could be used to transform education in 2001.  Under the guidance of their new president Henry Kelly, the FAS launched the Learning Science and Technology Research and Development Roadmap project, which brought together approximately 100 researchers from the academic, government and corporate sectors. This extensive collaborative effort was supported by a grant from the National Science Foundation to FAS-LTP (Grant number 0226421), the Department of Education, as well as the Hewlett Foundation, Microsoft Corporation, and Carnegie Corporation.  The Roadmaps were published in 2003 on the FAS-LTP website.

The collaborative work of the roadmap participants identified key research and development areas for next-generation learning systems; pedagogy and instructional design; building physically correct interactive simulations; dialogue and question management, learner modeling, and tools for assembling and constructing learning systems from these components.  These roadmaps were presented to Congress, and provided the background data for the development of legislation that was passed in 2008 as part of the Reauthorization of the Higher Education Act.  This legislation authorizes the establishment of a National Center for Research in Advanced Information and Digital Technologies.

Games can teach, we’ll prove it!

FAS began its bold experiment to PROVE that video game could teach and train in 2004. The newly formed FAS-Learning Technologies Program applied for and received three peer-reviewed, federally-funded grants to design and develop learning games.  In addition to Immune Attack, FAS-LTP has also produced a simulation trainer called Multi Casualty Incident Responder and a game called Discover Babylon.  Multi Casualty Incident Responder combines realistic simulations with advanced training technologies to teach firefighters.  Discover Babylon is an immersive 3D game for 8-12 year olds that teaches about the significance of Mesopotamia in world culture using library and museum objects.


Gathering More Evidence.

In October 2005, FAS-LTP convened the Educational Games Summit ( which was the first meeting of government, academia, private foundations and the entertainment software industry to address the challenges of developing, marketing and funding educational games.  The resulting report, on Educational Games.pdf summarizes the research about why video games are expected to teach well, and in particular, why complex video games (like Immune Attack) should teach the skills that high wage jobs demand, such as data collection and decision making.  Henry Kelly, President, Federation of American Scientists, as quoted in the Educational Games Summit report, says:

“Game developers have instinctively implemented a lot of the recommendations of learning scientists and used them to help players acquire a skill set that closely matches the kind of thinking, planning, learning, and technical skills that seem to be increasingly demanded in business. In the game world, the measure of a player’s success is complex and practical. Can you use your knowledge? Can you feed your people? Can you cure the patient? Can you beat Dan Snyder at his own football franchise?”

Immune Attack!  2004-2008.

With a competitive grant from the National Science Foundation (Award number 0427827), FAS lead a collaboration with Immunologists at Brown University, with graphic art experts at University of Southern California.  We chose to create a biology game, because of the need to engage more students in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) related fields.  We choose immunology because high school teachers indicated that this subject is one of the most difficult to present.

Game development is an iterative process, and scientists, teachers and students all had input.  Garry Gaber, CEO and President of Escape Hatch Entertainment, rose to the challenge.  Escape Hatch provided graphics and game mechanisms in Immune Attack that are not only fun and exciting for students to play, but that have been patiently modeled and re-modeled in response to scientists’ critiques.  This unique interaction requires Mr. Gaber’s personal dedication to the creation of an excellent educational video game, a sense of humor and collaboration on the part of our scientists, and the experience with maintaining unique collaborations that FAS-LTP provides.

Key parts of the game mechanism are that every object in the game functions as it should in nature, except for the fictional, cell sized submarine (called a nanobot) that the player pilots remotely through the body.  In this manner, game actions that are not true to nature are clear, because they involve the nanobot.  Additionally, great care was taken to generate the communication that comes from the game’s “on board advisors” so that it helps the player play the game while always presenting information that is true to science.

Once a working engine, working graphics generation system and storyline had been established, the work of testing Immune Attack with students could begin.  The most important factor in educational game development is, after all, that students should be engaged.  To this end, FAS-LTP spent an entire school year’s time testing the Immune Attack prototypes with students in 5 high school across the country.  After each evaluation with students, their comments and reactions were used to design the next prototype.  Finally a game mechanism and modified story line were finalized that was engaging for students and accurate to the science.


In May, 2008, the final version of Immune Attack was made available for free download on the FAS website [].  This version of Immune Attack is a proof of concept, a huge step toward demonstrating that a video game can be made about science.  A video game storyline can be written about cells and proteins that is compelling enough to make students want to play the game.  And importantly, video game action can be created that is true to science.   Now, for the very first time, students can learn about innate immunity painlessly.  Well, not without repeatedly dying virtual deaths in virtual exploding fireballs.  But now immunity, and the cell biology and the protein biochemistry involved in immune reactions are presented to students in an familiar format: the video game.  Information is presented intuitively, players need to accomplish a goal so they seek out the information rather than listen passively, and the constant challenge of beating the game keeps them on task longer than anyone could ever listen to a lecture on innate immunity.  The richness of the video game arena is proven to be an excellent home for the Cellular and Molecular science of the human immune system.

Immune Attack has been downloaded by over 9000 people.  Five hundred teachers have registered with us as interested in evaluating Immune Attack in their classrooms.  Immune Attack is featured on the AAAS website ScienceNetlinks.  Seed magazine wrote an article “Gaming on the Shoulders of Giants” about us.  Nature Medicine featured Immune Attack in an article.  Edutopia has made two videos about McKinley Technology High School students using Immune Attack: these students served as beta testers for Immune Attack from the very beginning.

Immune Attack 2009-2014.

Melanie Stegman, Ph.D. was hired by FAS-LTP in Summer 2008 to be project manager for Immune Attack.  Melanie is leading the evaluation of Immune Attack and the development of Immune Attack 2.0.   To support the evaluation and distribution Immune Attack, much appreciated funding comes from the Entertainment Software Association Foundation, who have been dedicated to Immune Attack for over three years.  In order to develop Immune Attack from a proof of concept into an even more engaging game with ever more science included, Melanie has received a very competitive grant from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, Grant Number: 1R25AI084848-0110.  Collaborating with FAS_LTP in this work is the Maine International Center for Digital Learning, who helping us greatly with evaluation design.  And EscapeHatch Entertainment, of course, because they are best game designer/programmer ever.

Additionally, other important funding has come to Immune Attack from Amgen Corporation, PHrMA, Verizon Foundation.

Many goals remain to be accomplished.  Most importantly we must evaluate the effect of playing Immune Attack on students knowledge and on their attitudes toward cellular and molecular science.  Evaluations are underway, and any teacher, teaching any subject to 7th though 12th grade students is invited to participate in our evaluation. Preliminary data points out that students are learning.  Students who play Immune Attack learn about the functions of Monocytes, about proteins mediating the functions of Monocytes, and about molecular interactions among human complement factors, bacterial surface proteins and how cytokines are produced and what effect those cytokines have on white blood cells and vein endothelial cells.  Most promising is our preliminary data that students are gaining confidence with molecular and cellular biology.

Our preliminary data is so promising that the American Society of Cell Biology decided to put our abstract in their Press Book.  Our evaluations have been small scale so far, but we hope that in the next 4 months that we will be able to get about 20-30 teachers to evaluate Immune Attack in their classrooms.  The evaluation requires three 40-minute sessions in an online computer lab.  Computers need 2GHz processors and 1 GB of ram, a video card 64 MB or better and and must be running Windows XP, Vista or 7.

Scientists, we need you!

In order to develop new game levels that are full of exciting game play we need intricate molecular details about chemistry, physics, chemical engineering, nanotechnology, biochemistry, immunology and cell biology.  We have 20 dedicated scientists already serving on our Scientific Advisory Group.  Acting as a board of reviewers, these scientists keep Immune Attack accurate by “peer reviewing” the game.  There enthusiasm and expert assistance will keep Immune Attack an exciting true to life adventure!

If you would like to serve on the Scientific Advisory Group, or as an advisor as a teacher, please contact us at immuneattack at  We are having a great time presenting real cellular and molecular science to the public and we welcome you!