How did they spend their summer vacation (or at least part of it)? Designing games!
Neuro’s Quest, a single-player Facebook game for high school students and above that loosely models the behavior and potential treatment of neurodegenerative illnesses such as Parkinson’s or Lou Gehrig’s disease, was conceived by a team of teachers and students from Nashoba Regional High School as part of the first Game for Good Design Camp organized with Generation Cures at Children’s Hospital Boston and sponsored by MassBioEd and Microsoft in summer 2010.
The Game for Good Design Camp is an important initiative of our ongoing Design Corps work. During last year’s week long design camp, teachers and students collaborated to develop, test, and present new game concepts inspired by research at Children’s Hospital Boston. The goal of this project-based educational and design experience was to engage high school students in the sciences at the heart of pediatric medical research by having them investigate key topics, such as stem cells, immunology, and virology, and apply their knowledge to the development of new learning game concepts that could be used to engage and teach others.
In fact, Neuro’s Quest represents just one level of a larger game the Nashoba team conceived to help students understand why stem cells are so important in research. Other concepts to emerge during the design camp included games that helped player’s understand how the body is attacked by and combats viruses, how the digestive system handles healthy and not-so-healthy foods, and how doctors and patients both take responsibility for diagnosing illnesses through observation and analysis of symptoms and patient-specific data and information.
As the Nashoba team learned, diseases such as Parkinson’s and Lou Gerhig’s cause a loss of a person’s sensations and mobility because nervous impulses and dopamine, an important brain messenger related to adrenaline, are unable to reach their targets. To introduce others to these phenomena, student and teacher designers conceived a game where player’s clear pathways so nerve impulses can reach their targets. Camp organizers were so impressed by the design concept that they decided to produce the game with FableVision, a Boston-based educational media company that has developed other creative media, including a web-based animated series and online game, for Generation Cures.
Neuro’s Quest game play occurs in a maze that represents a section of nervous tissue. An impulse periodically travels from one end of the maze to the other. Initially, the impulse will be unable to complete a path because some pathways are blocked or need repair. The player’s goal is to clear at least one pathway so a nerve impulse can travel uninterrupted from the beginning to the end of the maze. The player wins the game once he/she has cleared all 15 levels, each increasing in difficulty across different regions of the body. Facts about neurodegenerative diseases and the research at Children’s Hospital Boston are presented in between levels.
Although the game is single-player, Neuro’s Quest features several social elements meant to take advantage of the Facebook platform, including social-circle leader boards, which allow players to see their rankings among only their friends, and achievements, which players earn by inviting and challenging others.
Players can also join or make a gift to Generation Cures, a program created to support research at Children’s Hospital Boston. Neuro’s Quest is a terrific example of the Generation Cures mission of kids helping kids through creative and educational media and content development.
Play Neuro’s Quest and challenge your friends at: http://www.neurosquest.com