Category Archives: Science Games

Any video game that teaches a science concept, whether it was intended to or not!

Cellcraft puts you in the driver seat of a cell

So, how do cells avoid viruses? If you wonder, try playing the game CellCraft.  It is a terrific game for middle school students or anyone.   Check it out, give the Cellcraft team some props on their forum, and then tell me what you like about the game.

cellcraftgame.com

www.kongregate.com Play Cellcraft here!

Immune Attack address more molecular detail, but we are trying to do essentially the same thing: teach people how cells actually operate at the molecular level.  The world of the Cell is frankly a fascinating huge place and it should be explored in as many ways as possible, games, stories, videos, it is a rich place for storytelling with many many points of conflict… between cells and viruses, human cells and bacteria, DNA vs damaging radicals…There are endless stories to tell!

Congratulations to the Cell Craft Team!  And thank you!

Can we grade Video Games?

I attended Games for Change 2010 in NYC in May.  I was really excited to meet Bill O’Brien, Senior Advisor for Program Innovation, National Endowment for the Arts.  How about that?  The NEA is interested in Video Games, so they must be art, right?

I think of video games as art.  I always have.  Video games make me think and feel and someone made it.  Art.  The art is in the fact that video games affect our thinking, affect our way of looking at the world, the affect us in a way a conversation with another human being may affect us.  This is because art is a way for one human to contrive a way for another human being to have an experience, even when the two humans will never meet.

I wrote to Bill O’Bien at the NEA and told him how I thought of art.  And I wanted to share it here, because I believe that considering video games as means of affecting the mind of the player may make it more clear that video games can open worlds the same way books, paintings and conversations can.

I am sure someone else defined art this way before me, I don’t know who.   Tom Bissell just published a terrific new book called Extra Lives. I haven’t finished it yet, so I thought I would tell you how *I* would judge video games and we’ll see how Tom Bissell does it.   OK, here goes.

Video games are essays.  Video games are written by an author who, like the essay’s author, is not present when the game is played.  Therefore, the game and the essay must be self contained.  An essay is designed to make the reader think or feel something, and this is why we call it art.  An essay may make me weep and may make me laugh, it’s that change in my thinking that we recognize as art.

Video games are museum installations.  A video game is made to interact with the player just like an art installation interacts with the audience.  Perhaps the pieces are arranged in a certain order, so that people walking by in the museum are sure to see the pictures in the right order.  Or, the author may allow the audience to walk around as they see fit.  Video games engage in this kind of manipulation of what the audience sees and in which order.   Some games are more free form, and others are more linear, just like installations in a museum.

Video games are stories.  And just like many stories, they often effect our thinking.  After reading a story, we sometimes see the real world around us from the point of view of characters in the story.  As Wayne Booth wrote in The Company We Keep: An Ethics of Fiction the characters, occurrences and narration of novels affect our thinking even after we finish the book.  Additionally, Booth writes that racism can be presented in a book, like Huckleberry Finn, but the book is not condoning racism, because the characters which we respect in the book do not condone racism.  Many games, even some ridiculously violent ones, contain stories that make the audience think about the consequences of their actions.  Often the story frames the violence in a way that makes it clear that horrible circumstances are driving the player to make terrible choices.  Bioshock and God of War both contain stories that explain why the player commits the violence, and leaves space for the player to feel remorse and consider the horrible consequences.  So just like any other piece of fiction, the player identifies with a character in the game, and the way the story is told speaks to the ethics of the fiction.

I think it is clear that video games are art, because they are attempts to convey emotion and thoughts from one human to another using device created by the author and which the audience interacts with independently.  The quality and worth of video games can be judged by the same standards we already use for essays, fiction, and museum installations.

This email is not an elegant or comprehensive description of all the ways video games are art, nor all the criteria that we can use to appraise them.  I just wanted to get across the point that video games create an experience for their players and this entire experience is the work of art.  While video game graphics can be art on their own, even simplistic or otherwise unpleasant or meaningless graphics can be art in the context of their video game because of how they contribute to the experience for the player.

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!

Melanie

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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.

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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 Metablast.org 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.  http://www.metablast.org/community

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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.

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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!

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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.

http://www.gamesforchange.org/play

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

http://www.nisenet.org/

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

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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.