Biology games

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About

I am very much interested in educational games - particularly games about cell biology and/or the human body. Below are a list of such game projects. Two of my favorites are Immune Attack (a 3d game where you fly around inside the human body) and Cell Craftgame (where you build your own cell!).

See also: Citizen science - for a bunch of "games with a purpose", such as the famous "FoldIt"


3D Game Projects

Immune Attack

  • website: http://fas.org/immuneattack/
  • creators: Federation of American Scientists (FAS)
  • people: Melanie Stegman
  • premise: You must navigate a nanobot through a 3D environment of blood vessels and connective tissue in an attempt to save an ailing patient by retraining her non-functional immune cells. Along the way, you will learn about the biological processes that enable macrophages and neutrophils - white blood cells - to detect and fight infections.
  • released: July 2010 (Immune Attack 1) - Immune Attack 2 hopefully soon!
  • comments: Even as an alpha looks fairly impressive and similar to idea Graham and I had about how such a game should be done!


MetaBlast

  • website: http://www.metablast.org/
  • creators: Eve Syrkin Wurtele and team at Iowa State University
  • premise: You control a tiny nano ship (spacecraft) injected into a plant cell and have to complete missions and answer quiz questions to progress.
  • released: started ~2009 I believe
  • comments: When last checked (feb 2012) is still just in "demo" stage, but looking incredibly promising. You can play up until the ship needs to shrink to enter a mitochondria. The use of a scale indicator and shrinking is brilliant and the game been done beautifully using the Unity 3D game engine. Works on both Mac and PC.


FEI Games - NanoImaging, NanoMedicine and NanaScaling

  • website: http://www.fei.com/resources/nano-games.aspx
  • creators: FEI Company
  • premise: Dr. Goodlove and his trusty assistant Lisa as explore and instruct players on the marvels of the nanoscale! Includes a game flying through the bloodstream (nanomedicine).... inspecting different scaled objects (nanoscaling) and finally one where you shoot down and can read about various bacteria and other microscopic organisms (nanoimaging). Windows only, and apparently 5-6 years old!!! Nice graphics considering its age.
  • released: 2007 I believe
  • comments: Lots of fun - surprised I've never heard of it!


Web Games

CellCraft

  • website: www.cellcraftgame.com/
  • creator: Lars Doucet from lead designer of Brain Juice Games, LLC, an independent game company based in Bryan, Texas, specializing in serious/applied games. Developed CellCraft with Wake Forest University using grant from Digital Media and Learning Competition.
  • premise: In this Flash game you build a cell, fight off viruses and save the Platypus species (great and funny storyline and cut-scenes)!
  • comments: Brilliant game! Loved the way organelles were introduced bit by bit... and brilliant logo. In first three days, the game has been played over 200,000 times (more). On Kongregate the game now has 2639 comments and average ranting of 4.21 stars/5 (very high!). Looks like only one (lead) programmer, one artist, one game design + lots of collaborators and beta testers.


Cell Command

  • website: www.filamentgames.com/products/cell-command
  • creator: Filament Games - Commercial I believe?.... game costs: $10 / year.
  • premise: You command a cell and have to swap between several different tasks (up to 3 at a time) to keep different systems running... systems include: #1# ribosome (matching game), #2# mitochondria (matching), #3# membrane (rotating defence), #4# lysosmes (eating garbage), #5# golgi (clever hybrid of tetris), #6# nucleus (timing game).
  • comments: Very clever game which features voices and a story-line where you are a young ensign who is trained to take control of the a cell, keep it running and perform missions like clotting a blood vessel and preforming rescue operations. I like the way they show a ship connected to the cell, and have great flash animations showing your "ship" exploring the body on route to it's next mission. The game-play itself is fun - basically you learn how to quickly switch between the different games and make sure none of the health indicators for any mini game goes into red - or your ship will crash. I think the storyline is what makes it great though! This game is amount several other games featured on sciencegamecenter.org. For $10 it gives several hours of great entertainment and you'll learn something too!


Mouse Party

  • website: http://learn.genetics.utah.edu/content/addiction/drugs/mouse.html
  • creator: University of Utah - Louisa Stark helped coordinate.
  • premise: It's no so much a game, but you select one mouse at a time (each effected by a drug) and learn how the drug interacts with neural receptors.
  • comments: Nice graphics and great idea.


NanoQuest

  • website: http://www.nanoquest.ie/play.html
  • creator: Discover Science and Engineering - in Ireland
  • premise: You get shrunk to 2 nanometers tall and must walk (in 3D) around completing tasks, while your friend walks around the lab.
  • comments:Uses shock wave but crashed occasionally with errors. Nice introduction of molecules such as buckyballs.


Problem Solving Web Games

The following games were all developed by the Center for Teaching and Learning at Rice University.

Reconstructors

  • website: http://reconstructors.rice.edu/
  • creator: Center for Teaching and Learning - Rice University
  • premise: It's the future and medical knowledge about drugs has been lost. You are a "reconstructor" and so with the help of a few characters, you must dig up lost information about drugs and solve little point-and click puzzels and mini-flash games.
  • comments:Nice idea, and some good little mini games (eg: match the graph). A couple broken links sadly.

Med Myst (Medical Mysteries on the Web)

N Squad Forensic Scientists

  • website: http://nsquad.rice.edu/
  • creator: Center for Teaching and Learning - Rice University
  • premise: Same feel as above, but trying to solve a crime and learning about cause-and-effect of alcohol in the process.
  • comments:Includes a few nice little mini games involving reconstructing neurons and alcohol's affect on different parts of the brain: go to episode 3), spell enzyme, click top right location, follow right door pads and click on tablet (assemble a neuron + patterns) or wall (synapse pathway).. Rice has also built a similar forensic game "CSI web adventure", which appears to have won several awards and is linked to directory from the "CSI the experience" site.


Non-Educational "Medical" Games

Games in this sections aren't particularly educational, but they are fun - and thus still represent good lessons for us!

Microbot Game

  • website: http://www.microbotgame.com/
  • creator: EA Games (EA games)
  • premise: Bad nano-bots are destroying you, so you must pilot a micro-bot through your bloodstream to destroy virus.
  • expected release: Feb 2011
  • comments:Graphics look fantastic and looks fun (you can upgrade your ship and cooperate with other players), but it doesn't look like there will be any educational component: see trailer and teaser. One of the v

Trauma Center Series

  • website: http://www.atlus.com/trauma_center/
  • creator: Atlus (Atlus)
  • premise: Depending on which game in the series, you have to fix up patients suffering from an epidemic disease or physical harm (land mine etc), by operating - using tools to clean away blood, quickly suture (stitch) cuts etc.
  • released: 2005
  • comments:Popular series (see Wikipedia page) from Japanese which looks entertaining gameplay video, but isn't particularly educational.


Microsurgeon (old!)

  • creator: Mattel Intellivision (discontinued 1983).
  • released: 1981
  • comments: An anonymous poster suggested I add this game and I couldn't resist - it was released around 1981 - two years before I was born! You can watch a video here, it looks like you have to navigate around organs, shoot virus and stop your patient from going into trauma. [Intellivision, first released 1979, was one of the earliest ever game platforms.



iPhone Applications

I've listed iPhone biology games/Apps separately here: Iphone - Science Apps. These include a couple of Apps by Rich Stoner (UCSD) called Cerebrii and Whole Brain Catalog Mobile.


Anatomy Viewing Tools

These are not games, but they are very useful tools!

  • Visible Body - Fantastic learning tool for anatomy students - view 3D human anatomy in almost any browser.
  • Google Body - Released Feb 2011 but uses WebGL so will only work if you have a newer browser. This system uses "Zygote" models, and since production has been renamed Zygote Body browser and become open source.
    • Very similar to google body are: Visible Body - a system which avoided WebGL and was once free but since gone commercial and BioDigitalHuman - which is very sophisticated and includes links to disease and even sounds out body parts.


Other

  • "Biotic video games" - a new type of game where someone can use environmental factors to interactively "control" real living organisms - in this case microscopic [paramecia] under a light microscope camera. The image of the bacteria is shown on-screen with objectives displayed (eg: swim the bacteria through this square, or hit the ball), and via a controller the user changes the electric current and/or the release of chemicals around these protozoa to make them change direction. While some people may question the point of such a game, the researchers are hoping it will help make people more curious about microscopic organisms. (PS: I wanna claim this one for next the next dangerous ideas session)
  • "Nucleus - by Pangea Arcade" - is actually a set of three games, but the one called "Nucleus" is interesting in that it's an asteroids game where you can collect electrons, and then drag them across to an atom's nucleus to create each element on the periodic table in order. Not *overly* educational, but hey - it does teach you the periodic table and it is a great idea, fun game, awesome graphics and even has 3D stereo mode (you'll need green-and-red 3d glasses).


Links

  • Citizen science - not all "biology" games, but very interesting.
  • Science Game Center - brilliant site with many fun little cell biology games.... including nice little cell building games like Build a Cell.
  • Games for Change - a large collection of games "selected as games that engage contemporary social issues in meaningful ways to foster a more just, equitable and/or tolerant society". 3rd World Famer is a good example.


Acknowledgements: Monica Berlanga for helping me discover sciencegamecenter.org) ... :)