Possible Worlds Games for Download on the Web or via iTunes

September 25, 2013


Each of the four Possible Worlds modules addresses a misconception related to common middle-school science topics: photosynthesis, heredity, electricity, or heat transfer. Full versions of the games are available for download online, and a four-level version of the photosynthesis game (“Ruby Realm Lite”) is available from iTunes.

The Ruby Realm is a 20-level adventure/maze game about photosynthesis that addresses the misconception that soil provides the mass in plants. Players navigate a vast cavern in search of missing friends, only to discover that they have entered a hidden, treasure-filled world whose vampire inhabitants do not like intruders. Luckily, players have a trusty guide in Biobot Bob, a robot powered by artificial photosynthesis, who helps them fend off hungry bats and angry vampires. Players must find light sources where Bob can generate the glucose he needs for power. Using Bob’s Molecule Replicator, they shoot light beams at CO2 and water molecules, breaking them apart and recombining the atoms to form glucose. They can also make other substances, such as tear gas, which Bob uses to repel the vampires. The game helps students construct an understanding of photosynthesis by letting them actively participate in the process of chemical change.

RoboRiot is an 8-level strategy/adventure game that addresses two genetics misconceptions: that the inheritance of traits is not random; and that dominant genetic traits are inherently better or more powerful than recessive traits.It‘s set on a planet where robots do most manual work. Water Bots clean. Fire Bots cook. Ice Bots make smoothies. But suddenly the robots start rampaging and wrecking things: A hacker has infected them. Players must build teams of rescue robots from spare parts and use them to subdue and disinfect the rampaging bots. Players use a recycler to build their robots. It randomly combines “alleles” of two junked bots to create a new robot. Since the process is random, players cannot control what type of bot they get, and must run the recycler until it produces a bot with the traits they want. Once they’ve assembled their team, they take on the rioters. These encounters reveal that dominant genetic traits aren’t inherently more powerful or better than recessive ones. Clever strategy, not hereditary dominance, wins the day.

Monster Music is a 20-level platformer/puzzler that addresses the misconception that electricity is a substance that flows like water, rather than a type of energy. The game is set in Harmonia, whose odd but industrious citizens love music above all else. So when an alien invader de-energizes the population, Harmonia’s leading musician decides to create new compositions that will combat the widespread lethargy. As the Maestro’s apprentice, the player must get an unruly group of musicians to create beautiful music together. That requires completing puzzles in which the player aligns the hyperactive monsters in a way that causes music, rather than cacophony, to emerge. These alignment puzzles serve as an analogy for the arrangement of electrons that allows electrical energy to travel through wires. Once a disc is recorded, the player races through Harmonia to deliver its energizing music to the exhausted citizens. Revived, they return to their labors, a testament to the effect energy (sound, in this case) can have on matter.

Galactic Gloop Zoo is a 60-level puzzle/strategy game that addresses a common misconception about the directionality of heat flow—that, for example, a drink cools because ice transfers its “coldness” to the drink, rather than because the drink loses its heat to the ice. The player assumes the role of a zookeeper in an intergalactic zoo filled with strange animals from many planets. Newly discovered creatures are about to go on display, but the eggs haven’t hatched yet. The player must warm or cool them, as needed, in order to hatch them in time. But players can’t access the eggs directly, and must use helper gloops to relay heat to the eggs. These blob-like creatures can transfer heat to each other through conduction, convection, and radiation, depending on their type, the environment, and their proximity to each other. Players use the gloops to create a Rube Goldberg-like sequence of heat-transfer events that results in the eggs warming or cooling enough to hatch and reveal the exotic animals inside.