Top 10 Game Jam tips. Developing fun science games in a hurry

AXS Studio science game developers Joyce Hui, Mike Kent, Susan Park and Brendan Polley recently stormed the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) annual Game Jam for a sleep-deprived weekend of art and coding. Given 2 days to finish a space-themed video game, they rocked it. Rogue Rovers is an addictive, super-fun multiplayer game of discovery (and smashing) on the surface of Mars.
Rogue Rovers start screen
Rogue Rovers gameplay


Here, the team shares their Top 10 Tips for creating science games under pressure:

  1. Define team member roles before not during the Jam.
  2. Plan ahead so you’re only actually building at the Jam.
  3. Prioritize the must-haves and nice-to-haves.
  5. Match game goals to learning goals. If the game is meant to be educational make sure these goals are compatible.
  6. Be prepared to change things on the fly and go with the flow.
  7. Take risks. Play to your strengths, but don”t be afraid to try a new technique or software feature.
  8. Get up and move occasionally. No one wants a DVT at the game jam!
  9. Small is beautiful. Keep your scope small and focused; and make it excellent.
  10. TEST! TEST! TEST! Does it work and, more importantly, is it fun?!

June is brain injury awareness month

Brain Injury Awareness Month highlights the importance of understanding the effects and causes of brain injury.

Together with the Florida Institute for Neurologic Rehabilitation (FINR), AXS Studio created 2 digital resources to help the families of patient understand the causes, effects and treatments of common brain injuries:

Understanding Brain Injury: Acute Hospitalization, an interactive iBook that includes descriptions of brain injury assessment options and common ICU equipment utilized, transition to the acute hospitalization setting, common adjustment issues and methods to cope and the roles and responsibilities of treatment team members.

FINR Brain Atlas enables users to explore brain anatomy and common injuries using an interactive 3D model. Detailed descriptions cover normal structure/function, changes due to injury and their effects. This is a helpful resource for people in need of a quick primer on the causes and effects of brain injury.

While not all brain injuries are preventable, many are. Wear a helmet and be safe!

Talking science visualization in the classroom

Last week I had the pleasure of speaking to a class of wonderful grade 5’s about medical science visualization. They’re learning about the human body and invited me talk about the amazing things we get to do at AXS studio, with a short lesson on the respiratory system thrown in. It was super fun. Kids are so awesome: so curious and funny and keen to learn.

We started with ‘what we’re all made of’, tracing our composition from organs to tissues to cells, molecules and atoms. We talked about how medicine is increasingly happening at the molecular level and that’s the realm where many medical artists now work. I showed animations that move from organs, through cells to molecules and demonstrate how they interact with one another to ‘make us work’.

We then discussed how similar we humans are to many other animals — we have many of the same parts and many species start out much the same at the embryonic stage. To demonstrate, I showed our Chick embryo: 10 years to hatching animation which got a spontaneous round of applause! 

Chicken Embryo Development

A highlight for the kids was the models I brought in: casts of a dolphin and human brain (thanks Professor Lumsden!), human skulls, molecular (CPK) models of common substances, and 3 sets of lung models, courtesy of Joel Bathe from InterMune.

We ended with a quiz — to see who was really paying attention. The correct answers were ‘lymph node’, ‘alveolus’ and ‘capillary’ (see if you can guess the questions). I got some hilarious responses, but ultimately the right ones and 3 clever kids went home with AXS calendars.

Thanks to Ms Netley, Ms. Balane and the grade 5s at Maurice Cody Public School.

Tips for talking science with kids

  • Make it interactive. Don’t simply talk to them, but make it a dialogue with lots of Q & A.
  • Use models. many kids are hands-on learners; they like to touch and feel the subject.
  • Use pictures and video — lot’s of them. A soon as I start to lose kids while talking, I switch to a new image and, bing, they refocus.
  • Relate the subject to everyday experience, so it’s meaningful. When discussing the importance of respiration and gas exchange in the alveoli of the lungs, I relate it to the discomfort of holding your breath, or being winded after a run.
  • If you’re talking about anatomy, ask if anyone gets queasy, then give them a heads-up before showing pictures of anatomy. I take for granted that the inside of a body is fascinating. Not so for everyone.
  • Make it fun! Science is about curiosity and discovery.