Presented By CyGames
Selene: a lunar construction game

Videogame Research Heading to Congressional Showcase

Date Posted: Fri Oct 30 2009

Videogame research and development taking place at the Center for Educational Technologies® will be featured at the U.S. Senate Education Technology Showcase.

The CyGaMEs project is one of six National Science Foundation-funded projects selected to present Wednesday from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Senate Hart Office Building in Washington, DC. The purpose of the event is to educate members of Congress, their staff, and other interested people about the use of technology at all levels of education, from teacher development to K-12 learning.

CyGaMEs stands for Cyberlearning through Game-based, Metaphor Enhanced Learning Objects. The National Science Foundation (NSF) funded the project in September 2008 for two years at almost $1.2 million and then another $800,000-plus for two more years contingent on available funding. CyGaMEs features an approach to instructional videogame design in which gameplay makes new, difficult science concepts intuitive. The project embeds assessment tools into the game itself. In other words, the game measures learning as changes in learner behavior exhibited during gameplay. CyGaMEs empirical research demonstrates that the suite of assessment tools is an extremely sensitive measure of changes in players' science knowledge and players' affective responses to the learning environment (flow). According to Larry Hedges, a national leader in the fields of educational statistics and evaluation, CyGaMEs research is potentially path breaking. CyGaMEs could serve as a prototype for the types of instructional interventions lots of people are talking about and think would be a good idea. Hedges is interested in the CyGaMEs assessment suite as a way to measure learning that does not violate the assumptions held by learning scientists.

The research began with funding from NASA in 2006 and resulted in the creation of the Selene videogame. In Selene players learn difficult geological concepts like accretion, differentiation, impact cratering, and volcanism by applying these science concepts to help players move toward the game's goal of building the Earth's moon. Players construct the moon, then pepper it with impact craters and flood it with lava to experience how our moon formed and changed over time. All through the game Selene tracks each player's behavior to measure learning and the player's response to the game environment.

The NSF grant includes funding for updates and improvements to the game. Second Avenue Software of Pittsford, NY, is the contracted game development company.

Presenting the game to Congress will be Debbie Denise Reese, Ph.D., senior educational researcher at the Center for Educational Technologies and leader of the CyGaMEs project, and Victoria Van Voorhis, chief executive officer of Second Avenue Software. They will also display the project Tuesday afternoon at NSF headquarters in Alexandria, VA.

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 or contact Lisa McFarland at 304-243-2479 or