Presented By CyGames
Selene: a lunar construction game

Selene Videogame Wins International Competition

Date Posted: Thu Jan 31 2013

The game features the work of three accomplished scientists. Reese created the assessment and instructional concepts of Selene and has earned national awards for the game's design. Chuck Wood, director of the center, is a renowned lunar scientist who spent years with NASA training shuttle astronauts on lunar observation, and he also operates the Lunar Photo of the Day website.

He guides players through Selene in a series of video segments that explain the Moon's geological history. And Barbara Tabachnick, professor emerita of psychology at Cal State Northridge, has served as a consultant throughout the project.She recently earned the lifetime achievement award from the Western Psychological Association for her 40 years as a research design/statistical consultant.

"Our research shows that the CyGaMEs' approach to instructional game design offers a great opportunity for learners to wrestle with challenging Earth and space science concepts targeted by the Next Generation Science Standards and the Framework for Science Education," Reese said. "CyGaMEs offers authentic, performance-based assessment. We can actually show players and educators what students learn and when."

According to Reese, it's these under-the-hood aspects that make Selene special. CyGaMEs uses a type of knowledge engineering to translate hard science into videogames: to translate what scientists think into a game that learners play to discover and apply fundamental science concepts. The process enables researchers to measure learning as it occurs. This permits CyGaMEs to draw each player's learning as a visual representation that researchers, educators and even 9-year-old players can understand.

Selene recently debuted its Spanish language version.

"Because the game is now bilingual," Reese said, "it supports a dual language approach to teaching and assessment. Some research suggests that educational outcomes for English language learners improve when first language support is provided. So learning science in a student's native language, like Spanish, can help the student build knowledge and transfer that knowledge to the academic language they would use for that science in English. We are partnering with the National Association for Bilingual Education to conduct focused work on implementing dual language games in science, technology, engineering and mathematics classrooms. The potential to enhance science achievement for English language learners is very exciting."

Both versions of the game are free online and available 24-7. Players ages 9-18 and adult recruiters, who confirm players' ages, get parental consent and gather other players, are always needed to help with the CyGaMEs research. To sign up as a recruiter or play Selene, visit the Selene website at or contact

Among past honors for Selene, it has earned the Association for Educational Communications and Technology Design and Development Best Practice Award both in 2008 and 2011. Disney Research named the Selene game and CyGaMEs research one of 15 finalists worldwide in its 2010 Learning Challenge Competition.