Video Game Teaches Cell Microbiology

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C., July 30 (UPI) — A video game teaching microbiology proved an unexpected hit with gamers who’ve played it 1 million times within 10 days of its release, its authors say.

CellCraft, developed by a team of scientists, middle-schoolers and software developers working with Wake Forest University, has been ranked by players in the top 100 best games on free gaming sites, unheard of for a free educational game, a university release said Friday.

“When we set out to teach students about cutting-edge cell science, 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, 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.”

In the game, players start by learning the parts of a cell and how they work; it’s a crash course in cell science.

Then the action starts. The player must save the cell from freezing to death, being invaded by viruses or even being digested by a giant crocodile. Doing this requires a strong understanding of how a cell works, knowledge gained in playing the game.

“We have a game that’s as popular as modern, entertainment-only games,” Wake Forest alumnus and CellCraft project director Anthony Pecorella says. “Yet unlike those games, this is a powerful learning tool that enhances kids’, and adults’, knowledge and excitement about science.”

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