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Gravity Ether Game

Creating a space for some serious black hole engineering

In Spring 2013, Iridescent Learning received funding to test, create and refine Gravity Ether, the second of six physics simulation games based on school physics standards. This process also included the development of learning activities and a series of game jam events.

This project is indicative of a larger effort on the part of Iridescent to scale its reach through the increased use of digital learning platforms. One of these initiatives focuses specifically on games as a medium that shares many similarities with Iridescent’s approach to in-person activities and workshops. Educators at Iridescent have used games and the game design process to further explore how online digital games can help youth learn science content. For example, in Gravity Ether, youth manipulate the path of planets by tapping on the screen to create black holes. In this way, youth develop an understanding of how gravitational fields affect planet motion through the process of achieving the level objectives. Games have also been explored as a way to practice necessary engineering and design skills such as exploring open-ended challenges, learning by doing, goal and task-oriented activities, providing a safe environment for failure and performance before competence.

One of the most innovative elements of Gravity Ether is its user level-creation process to enable youth to remix the content of the game. The combination of play and creation engages higher order skills of critical thinking, creativity, and systems thinking, exercises both systems thinking and a their understanding of gravity, not only through the process of remixing game content but also by balancing competing design elements in the design a challenging level. To ensure that these elements were properly incorporated into the game, the game was playtested at the Iridescent studio and at Quest-to-Learn’s Playforce club. Institute of Play staff provided valuable feedback on the game during development. Additionally, Nick Fortugno at Parsons the New School for Design acted as an additional advisor and provided valuable feedback on beta versions of the game.

Upon development with project partners Robot Super Brain Designers, Gravity Ether reached youth in a series of three-hour events where youth hacked different game platforms to make new games, created levels in existing games, or designed game controllers. These events were collaboratively run by several Hive NYC organizations, including Institute of Play, Global Kids, MOUSE, Museum of the Moving Image and Eyebeam.

The game itself was quite impactful at engaging kids in both physics and game design. To date, we have had over 150 levels created and published on the game server. Many of these were done by our youth in game jams or other events, but about a third of the levels were created from anonymous users that found and played the game on the App Store, indicating that the game has a level of appeal and engagement that competes with other quality apps.

The movable game jam itself was also a surprisingly effective innovation that occurred as a result of this project. It provided a model to engage youth in game design in a meaningful way. But the more innovative and interesting component is the way organizations were engaging in collective knowledge building. This event provided an innovative model for staff professional development and sharing of best practices.

Lead Organization:

Partner Organizations:
Institute of Play (advisory role) , Robot Super Brain Designers

Project Goal:
To create an open-ended physics simulation game and run a Hack Jam to foster student-contributed content to the game.

Project Tags:
Games & Game Design

Project Portfolio

  • teaching resources

    The Hive Movable Game Jam Guide

    A description of the format and best practices for educators to run game jams. Includes free sample activities, some of which use the Gravity Ether.

  • teaching resources

    Educator Resource Packet

    A guide for teachers to implement the Gravity Ether in their classroom to teacher either physics concepts or the engineering design process.

  • sample works

    Project Samples

    Homepage for the Gravity Ether game, showing in-game screenshots.

  • documentation

    Hive Game Jam at the Iridescent Studio

    A blog post recapping one of our game jams.

  • documentation

    Hive Movable Game Jams moving to DML!

    A blog post recapping a game jam we ran at DML for educators.

  • media

    Ethers PSA

    Iridescent is making a series of educational physics simulations. Iridescent typically designs hands-on design challenges and works on in-person physical programming. So why are we making a digital simulation game targeted at schools and teachers? This video explains our reasoning, and the connection between the Ethers games and the rest of Iridescent’s programs.

  • tools

    Download the game on IOS

    A link to download the free Gravity Ether game for iOS devices.

  • tools

    Download the game for Desktop

    A link to download the free Gravity Ether game for Windows or Mac as a Desktop application.