December 11th, 2017

The games scientists play

By Martin, Tijana on June 26, 2017.

Tijana Martin

Lethbridge Herald

An unusual pair of third-year classes from the University of Lethbridge recently joined forces to complete a project.

Students from Biochemistry 3300 and New Media 3310 Game Design, Theory and Production, have created two new games after being put in touch through the Agility program.

According to the University, biochemistry professor H.J. Wieden suggested a game might help his students better understand the 3300 course, which is essential for those to understand the metabolic process and synthetic biology.

“This is probably the most hated subject matter in all of biochemistry because it is so much material,” said Widen in a press release. “I thought one way of interacting with it might be putting it into game play so that you could engage with the material.”

This year, he asked PhD student Taylor Sheahan to run with his idea and so she made her way to the Agility Lab in hopes of getting 3D game tokens designed.

From there, she met James Graham, who teaches the 3310 Game Design, Theory and Production class.

“They had the science but were finding it challenging to insert game play into it,” said Graham. “We talk about games as systems, they are not just processes that happen, so that’s where it has a really nice overlay. You can take the matrix of game design as a system and overlay the science as a system and see how that matrix can be made to line up and then connect that to people in a way that makes science understandable and enjoyable.”

At first, the students struggled to find a common language, but Sheahan saw that as a benefit for the biochemistry students. “They had to really focus on using layman terms as well as understand the overall concept of how everything fit together so that it would make sense,” said Sheahan.

“They were trying to communicate complex scientific systems, the metabolic process, in a way that was not didactic and boring,” said Graham. “My students had to educate themselves to understand the science.”

Graham’s class of 12 was split into two working groups. One group designed a non-competitive, narrative-based game aimed at Grade 11 students, while the others focused on a ompetitive game designed for third-year biochemistry students, which Sheahan expects will be used in next year’s class.

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