Photo: Courtesy Ariel Marcy


Go Learn! Using Games to Teach Science

Ariel Marcy, ’11, made her first educational game at Stanford, as a course associate for an introductory human biology class. Dubbed Cancer Avenger, the web-based game taught the details of cell cycle control and communication and its uses in fighting cancer. Her next inspiration came a couple years later, when she realized that the intricacies of evolutionary family trees couldn’t be explained well in a textbook. The result, based on the classic card game Go Fish, was Go Extinct! in which players collect color-coded cards of related animals and learn, ultimately, that many different species share a common ancestor. For her ingenuity, she won the 2016 Thomas Henry Huxley Award, given by the Society for the Study of Evolution to early- and mid-career scientists for achievement in outreach and education. Successfully funded on Kickstarter, Go Extinct! is already in its second printing and inspired the founding of STEAM Galaxy Studios, Marcy’s educational game design company. “Mammals learn through play,” Marcy explains, “so it makes sense that we would learn well through games.”

Now a doctoral student at the University of Queensland in Brisbane, Australia, Marcy also has her own research on Australian rodents to attend to, and she might just make a game out of that too. “Before I got here, my main thing was: How can science be communicated? How can it make a compelling game system?” she says. “Now I’m starting to think about it the other way. How can games help me do science?” •