Third-person shooter improves science skills

Students who play the video game Immune Attack understand cellular and molecular biology measurably better than those who do not, a study finds.

Want an excuse to play a third-person shooter video game? Fear not, my intrepid adventurers--so long as you are willing to navigate the microscopic world of immune system proteins and cells to save a patient trying to fight off a raging bacterial infection. And if you think that sounds good, there's more: it's free.

According to an evaluation of a few hundred 7th grade students, the difference in understanding of cellular and molecular biology was "measurably improved" among the 180 students who played the free, 3D third-person shooter game Immune Attack, which was devised by Melanie Stegman and Michelle Fox of the Learning Technologies Program at the Federation of American Scientists in Washington, D.C.

The study's findings are being presented at the American Society for Cell Biology's annual meeting this week in San Diego, Calif.

To play the game, simply control the Microbot Explorer, so named because it is just 25 microns wide (a micron being a millionth of a meter), as you travel through the suffering patient's bloodstream and connective tissue in an attempt to capture such things as white blood cells.

"Additionally, we have used Immune Attack to inspire high school computer programming classes to create their own new videos games based on [it]," Stegman said.

Immune Attack 2.0 is due to be officially released in early 2010 but is available for free download now for people with PCs here. (A Mac version is coming in the future.)

 

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