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Alien Gardener

The Alien Gardener is an educational game designed to educate players about EcoCELLs, a project of the Desert Research Institute. This project is a collaboration between the DRI and Field Day Lab at University of Wisconsin. The game allows learners to engage in scientific experiment design, data collection, and basic argumentation from data skills, in alignment with the scientific practices of the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS).

Audience

  • Nevada High School Students in a formal School Context (Primary Audience)

  • Nevada Virtual School

  • BrainPOP and other educational content portals for national audiences

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Role

I worked with the design team at Field Day Lab to develop the key game mechanics, refined and and iterated on the high level game concept, and crafted the content surrounding the game. I also wrote dialogue, researched gameplay scenarios, and developed in-game text.

Process

This game began with the desire to create an educational experience around Ecologically Controlled Enclosed Lysimeter Laboratories, or EcoCELLs for short. These unique environments could be used to create ideal growing conditions for plants in enclosed conditions. This makes it possible to create sustainable ecosystems that could provide nourishment for people in extreme conditions, such as during space travel. This led to the initial idea of creating a game based on a premise similar to The Martian.

 

After some drafting some thrilling gameplay narratives and dialogue, the concept shifted slightly, from an astronaut stranded on Mars, to long-term space travel. We developed a gameplay narrative set on a near-future space station or ship.  We iterated on the gameplay mechanics and concepts, and I created a variety of scientifically realistic challenges that an astronaut might face when attempting to sustain a crew with an onboard garden while in space.

This project allowed me to indulge in my interest in both botany and space travel... not something you get to do every day. It also allowed me to exercise my creative faculties to write engaging scenarios, an overall narrative arc of increasingly difficult challenges, and develop story and dialogue.

Outcome

This game is in development.