Designer Diary: The Cell Saver Suite now ready for playing!
We have been hard at work at something particularly special and are ready to announce it: some new games have been added to our Game Arcade that have a history with us! Cell Saver is a story-based biology game aimed at the learning about the cell and Nucleus Challenge is one review module that can be played to practice and study information and skills acquired in Cell Saver. The reason these games are special to us is that they are updated versions of the prototype that won us the grant to start the whole ClearLab project and now they are playable right in your browser! Continue reading to find out what these games are all about or just jump right in for a test drive.
The design behind Cell Saver came from repurposing a game mechanic that was found to be quite addictive and successful in the commercial market. If you have heard of the WarioWare games by Nintendo, you are familiar with the microgame game mechanic. This is an experience where a player is dropped into a level from which not only do they need to figure out what to do but they need to do it in an extraordinarily simple amount of time. The only help the player receives is a starting hint and the rest they must glean from instinct and "reading" the level.
In terms of their merit as an educational mechanic, we believe microgames have value for two reasons. One, they provide a way to counter the "drill-and-kill" line of thinking that is associated with rote memorization. Instead of getting bored, we are finding students naturally wanting to play the games over and over, getting better at them, and cementing their foundational knowledge. Two, microgames seem to suggest evidence for the Theory of Multiple Intelligences. Students appear to be walking away from the game with the same knowledge retained because microgames offer players the ability to engage with the content in different ways: through audio, visual, spatial, language etc.
Feedback request! What are your first impressions of Cell Saver and it's review module Nucleus Challenge?
While at first glance microgames themselves may seem frustrating, especially if you are used to taking your time with games, they actually prove to be quite fun once you get the hang of it and let yourself go. The students we tested these on, became quite engaged. Microgames also revealed themselves to be a design spec that could go quite deep. As evidenced by multiple releases in the Warioware series, you can make a microgame around any experience you want to convey. For a teacher, that means there is almost an infinite amount of content available to could be captured in the microgame format.
We can't wait to hear your thoughts!