This weekend, as I was coming home from the MacArthur Foundations’s Emerging Scholars Conference on Assessment, I experimented with the demo of a new (to me) indie game, Osmos. The game has been out for a couple of years, since 2009, and was recommended to me by fellow attendees who have purchased the Indie Humble Bundle, which not only gets players great games but also helps support a variety of charities.
Developed by Hemisphere Games, this lovely game worked for me on many levels. My first impression is that it is just a beautiful game visually. The graphics are very high quality and the motion of the little cells (one of which is yours to control) is very smooth. Add the very lovely soundtrack, and you have a wonderful, meditative game suitable for relaxation while you do a little learning. I played it on the plane in order to unwind – using an average set of headphones to block out some of the background noise. I have to tell you, I would have played for the entire trip home if my battery had not run out … I’ll be looking to see if this is going to become available for the iPad!
Once I became comfortable with the controls, I was able to see how an understanding of physics was helpful. This game reinforces an understanding of thrust mechanics as well as inertia. Plus, the player must balance resources since the little cells move by expelling part of their matter but must grow larger than competing cells in order to survive. Hence, players learn to move efficiently, take advantage of Newton’s Laws, and be patient.
The game does allow the player to speed up time if you want to see results quickly, but I decided to be more patient and let cells glide around as part of the unwinding process. But just be aware that, in a classroom setting, you might want to control the speed of each level to reinforce the learning objectives and fit the game into your classroom schedule.
On the whole, I love this game and recommend it highly. While it gives a nod to the biological reality that organisms ingest smaller organisms, it is not a violent game, which makes it appealing for school use.