What We’re Playing: CellCraft

Some of you may know that in a past life I worked on Immune Attack, a game that teaches immunology to high school students (be sure to check out the new version coming soon!). It was a great project and I loved working with the team on it. However, we had a lot of challenges in development regarding tradeoffs in how to present biologically accurate material and how to keep the game fun and engaging.

Enter CellCraft, an awesome game that is about cellular biology. The game is basically a microscopic RTS in which the player controls a single cell and has to perform the various actions real cells perform to defeat/survive bacterial and viral infections. What *I* find shocking is that:

  • They didn’t dumb down any of the terminology in the game (one of the first instructions you get is to create a pseudopod (latin: fake foot, it’s how cells move around). Your fuel is ATP, your units are the organelles themselves, and as a result when you are done playing you know all the terms. Awesome!
  • The behaviors taken by the cell are realistic too. At no point do you whip out lasers to kill bacteria, but you do get to go all pac-man-y on them and eat them.
  • The game is legit fun! This is a huge accomplishment; when was the last time someone told you that biology is fun?

If you haven’t tried it yet, you really need to go play this game now. If you really like it you can even download it for free onto your computer. Hooray for government grants leading to free games!

One more thing worth noting is that there has recently been some controversy about the game concerning whether it endorses evolution or creationism. This is, of course, a bit ridiculous as the game has absolutely nothing to do with either and is concerned with cellular biology, but hey some people like to dig for meaning anywhere they can. I’m glad the controversy happened because it’s driven many more eyeballs to a highly deserving game (sure, it was for the wrong reason but who cares?). If you’re curious you can read about the developer’s thoughts here.