Reinventing education one pixel at a time
By Chong Jinn Xiung October 20, 2016
- Education group ventures into game development in search of new ways to engage students.
- Aims to create more educational games focusing on Biology, Physics and Mathematics.
CHEMISTRY has the reputation for being the toughest science subject in school, with many students shying away from studying it. However, it’s also an essential subject for those wishing to pursue science-based degrees such as Medicine or Pharmacy.
Educational game developer ACE EdVenture Studios (ACE) has stepped into this arena with the bold ambition of making Chemistry more palatable to students through its mobile game ChemCaper: Petticles in Peril for iOS and Android devices.
Launched in March 2016, ChemCaper is the first in a line edutainment games co-developed by ACE and Indonesian game design studio Artoncode. The game will cover the International General Certificate of Secondary Education (IGCSE) Chemistry syllabus.
Formed in 2012 by Anne Tham, Hao Jin, Vincent Xu and Renyi Khor, the group wanted to search for ways to effectively use games to teach difficult subjects.
“In 2016, it is hard to get kids to drop their gadgets in favour of a textbook. So we figured it might just be better to leverage on this medium that kids love instead of trying to fight them,” said Xu.
“A lot of educators want to make learning fun and effective but they are not sure how to. Even if they have an idea, they don’t have access to the right people to make an educational game,” he said.
He explained that the game's development is shared across Malaysia and Indonesia with 80% of the work done here, including art direction and game design, while the remaining 20% of the coding is done in Indonesia.
It helps that the game’s soundtrack was written by renowned Japanese composer Norihiko Hibino, whose previous works include games like Metal Gear Solid and Bayonetta. Hibino’s audio production studio GEM Impact was also engaged to work on the game’s sound effects.
Xu said that ACE is in a unique position as a game studio that is part of the ACE EdVenture education group that includes two international schools and multiple learning centres.
This gives the game design team access to Chemistry teachers in the Sri Emas International School, who they frequently consult to ensure that concepts and theories in Chemistry are accurately translated in the game.
For example, the Periodic Table is actually brought to life in the world of ChemCaper as the various chemical elements are represented by characters that inhabit the world.
Even the hero, Roub is presented as a reactive metal which is low density so he floats. In battle, he calls on Petticles (a combination of the words “pet” and “particle”), creatures based on real life particles formed by chemical bonding, to aid him.
“We utilise a lot of wordplay in the game as direct and indirect forms of educating players,” Xu said.
“For students in Year 7 to 11, Chemistry is a difficult subject to master, so we created ChemCaper to help them better understand the subject,” said lead game designer Erica Tham.
“We want to promote education that is interactive where learning is fun, engaging and meaningful,” said Tham, who is also a teacher at Sri Emas International School.
But just how effective is the game in teaching Chemistry to students?
ACE claimed that an internal survey they conducted showed that students remembered 90% of the Chemistry concepts learned in the game six months after playing. This would appear to indicate that students are able to retain the bulk of what is incorporated into the game.
There have even been positive results with students as young as six-years-old who managed to grasp some of the concepts after playing the game.
Since the launch of the game at the Game Developer’s Conference in San Francisco, ACE has been hard at work on bringing ChemCaper to other platforms namely PC and Mac by the end of 2016. These versions are said to offer additional content that the mobile versions do not possess.
Xu said the studio is currently looking for funding to help market the game as well as expand the size of the team.
“Right now we are releasing one game a year but we would like to look at releasing multiple titles in a year. To do that we need a bigger team,” he said.
Apart from this, ACE is also looking at making other educational games with a focus on subjects such as, Biology, Physics and Mathematics.