Frame capture from Cell-fie prototype. © 2018 Grace Ling/Cell-fie.

VR Meets Biology Meets Video Games: Introducing Cell-fie

By Jenny Walsh

Picture this: you’ve been sitting in a lecture hall for two hours, and no matter how hard you strive to pay attention, you just can’t seem to keep your eyes from fluttering shut. Sounds like a familiar story, right?

Now picture this: a world where you’ve been studying and learning for hours straight, but your having too much fun doing it to stop any time soon. Sounds impossible, doesn’t it? Not to Grace Ling ’19 (Bioengineering), Helen Newen ’18 (Public Health Science), Elizabeth Wu ’17 (OMIS), and Theresa Conefrey (Lecturer in English Department).

This carefully constructed team, led by Grace, has designed a way to make learning fun and interactive with their new video game, Cell-fie. Inspired by biology, VR reality role playing and simulation games, Cell-fie aims to help people learn about organisms and their makeup. Players create their own cell character and start off on their quest. They gain levels by slaying monsters and completing quests from the organelle leaders. When they reach a certain level, they can move up in the game and become an organelle instead of a cell. The more levels they complete, the bigger entity they will become. When they finally reach the status of an organism they win the game.

Frame capture from Cell-fie prototype. © 2018 Grace Ling/Cell-fie.

Cell-fie is targeted at middle school and elementary school children. The creators of the game feel that this age group has a tendency to struggle with biology. Therefore, they want to teach the subject in a fun way so that youths are well prepared to learn the subject when they reach high school and college.

Each team member has a specific role in the group project. Cell-fie began as Grace’s brainchild. She developed the project concept and created much of the preliminary computer coding. She has even designed the artwork for the entire project. Helen, who is going into the medical field after college, is working to tie in biology facts and systems into the game. Elizabeth, who has plans to go to school for video game design, will be helping to make everything more gamelike.

Frame capture from Cell-fie prototype. © 2018 Grace Ling/Cell-fie.

Dr. Conefrey’s teaching and research explores how newer technologies potentially allow for innovative learning in the classroom and beyond. These interests prompted her to offer her support to the project. She is assisting with the dialogue that users will hear in the game.

Grace and Helen are participating in the VR boot camp classes in the SCU Imaginarium. They are using their class time to work on their project. They have a long way to go in the process, and are thinking of even extending their work into next year to make a 2D model of the game. For now, their main goal of the quarter is to get comfortable with 3D modeling design and create at least one pathway with a few different levels for their game.

To keep up with the Cell-fie team, make sure to like our page on Facebook (SCU Imaginarium) and head over to our website (scu.edu/imaginarium) to stay up to date with all things virtual reality!