The Geckoman! Story – Creating a Better Learning Experience for a Wider Audience
NSF Grant Number: EEC-0425826
PI(s): J. Isaacs, C, Barry, J. Laird, Lisa Regalla, and A. Busnaina
Institutions: Metaversal Studios, Northeastern University, University of Massachusetts Lowell, and the Museum of Science Boston
The NSF Nanoscale Science and Engineering Center for High-rate Nanomanufacturing (CHN) created Geckoman!, a nanotechnology video game based on learning about nanoscale forces. In Geckoman!, a laboratory accident has shrunk Harold Biggums to the nanoscale and flung him to the ceiling. His lab partner, the demure, blond Nancy, is trying to help him develop a device to reverse the shrinking effects, but in order to do so, she needs Harold (now transformed into Geckoman) to collect missing nanoparticles. The problem, Harold soon discovers, is that he is not alone on the ceiling. An alien race, the Nanoids, have been stealing Harold and Nancy’s technology one nanoparticle at a time.
A pre-release discussion of Geckoman!, however, identified two critical problems:
- Did the player really need to learn about nanoscale forces in order to win the game?
Would the targeted audience – i.e., middle school students – identify with Harold and Nancy?
The results of this discussion transformed Harold from “nerd boy” into “wild guy.” Nancy became Nikki, got an extreme make over, and received equal billing in the game. Nikki’s notebook pages, now the key to producing the shrinking machine, are the objectives of both Harold’s and the Nanoids’ quests. Since learning and applying the information in the notebook pages is required to win the game, players must learn about nanoscale forces.
Revision of this game involved collaboration among CHN faculty, the game designers at Metaversal Studios, and informal science educators at the Museum of Science, Boston.
Figure: Transforming Geckoman!: nerd boy Harold Biggums starts in the original version (top), but Nikki and the new Harold partner to defeat the Nanoids in the revised version (bottom).
Please visit Metaversal Studios website for more information or to play a demo of Geckoman!