What is Metablast?
Metablast is a real-time 3D action-adventure video game, aimed at high school and undergraduate student audiences, meant to provide an entertaining, engaging experience while simultaneously educating players about cell biology. By immersing players into a virtual cell environment and allowing them to interact with it on their own terms, the developers hope that players will come to a greater understanding of the cell than they could learn from traditional diagrams and textbooks.
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By playing Metablast, students will be introduced to the concepts of respiration,
photosynthesis, and the functions of various organelles in a manner complementary to the
textbook. Students will also be introduced to how the living cell actually appears through a
biologically accurate virtual replica of a cell environment.
Students will be presented with a series of puzzles and goals, such as having to create
oxygen, which will require them to think critically in order to come to the solutions. By
actively participating in these biological processes, students will “learn by discovery.”
MetaBlast Website and Database Design
The website provides access to the game, and supplementary learning materials and ideas
for students and educators. In addition, we have added a novel and robust set of features
for both students and educators; these features are enabled by augmenting the game client
with a server side database (http://www.mysql.com/). Student learning is enhanced
through a basic group implementation that is designed to support collaboration within
and between student classes. Educators can use the preexisting game questions in module
one, or create a question set custom-tailored to the needs of the class. These question sets
can be shared among educators. For educators, the database also provides a central data
collection point to provide a foundation for analysis of their student's progress and ensure
educational goals are met throughout the virtual environment.
The web servlet that powers the game will push a player's information upon the
completion of determined milestones (level finish, obtainment of an achievement, etc).
This data, which is stored in a database, will be used to drive a community portal on the
website. This community portal will include tracking of a player's progress throughout
the game (including information on the areas of biology students have covered). The final
system will allow for enhanced privileges for teachers that will including the tracking of
students in their class. The base site is driven by RefineryCMS (open source software) -
http://refinerycms.com/ - which provides a large portion of our functionality.