An educational video game goes toe-to-toe with some of the best shoot-'em-up games out there...and wins rave reviews.
When scientists, middle-schoolers and software developers partnered with Wake Forest University to create an educational video game designed to teach cutting-edge cell science, they never expected to rocket to the top of the online video game industry charts.
Within 10 days of release, CellCraft has been played more than 1 million times on top-level, free gaming sites including Kongregate.com and Newgrounds.com. Players ranked CellCraft in the top 100 best games of all time out of more than 30,000 on Kongregate, an honor that's unheard of for an educational game.
"We wanted our video game to rival the very best games in terms of sheer fun and entertainment value. It is a feat rarely accomplished," said Jed C. Macosko, Ph.D., an associate professor of physics at Wake Forest University and faculty science adviser for the CellCraft development team. "But CellCraft's phenomenal success proves that if done well it can be very engaging."
Blinding Them With Science
A 2009 study by the National Center for Education Statistics compared the math and science scores of 15-year-old American students with other students from countries that are part of the Organization for Economic Development. It found that students in the US are below average in math and were placed in the bottom quarter, and trailed such countries as Estonia, China and Finland. In science, the U.S. trailed Canada, Japan and the Czech Republic (Digital Journal).
Creators of CellCraft, including project director Anthony Pecorella, hope that the game will be instrumental in reviving interest in science-oriented careers. They hope to stimulate interest in science, both in America and in the 175 other countries in which the game has been played so far, and encourage both children and adults to study and explore the sciences.
Preliminary game testing showed that students who played an early version of CellCraft for 30 minutes showed statistically significant improvement on a cellular biology quiz. More importantly, they reported enjoying the lesson, and surveys showed that many had developed greater interest in the sciences in that one short session.
The game is available for free download at www.cellcraftgame.com. For the upcoming school year, it will include a free, downloadable teacher's packet and a printable lab worksheet as well.