October 04, 2005 —
The recently-established USC Viterbi School of Engineering
GamePipe Laboratory has begun work on its first R&D contract: a
$272,000 effort funded by the National Science Foundation to improve
K-12 biology teaching.
GamePipe director Michael Zyda will lead the ImmuneAttack project, in collaboration
with Chris Swain, a faculty member of the USC School of
Cinema-Television, and Victor LaCour, a lecturer in the Viterbi
School's department of computer science, working with the Federation of
American Scientists and Brown University.The idea is to supplement and
extend the chapter on the immune system of a standard biology textbook
, by Neil A. Campbell and Jane B. Reece) with a dramatic
videogame that presents the material in a challenging and accessible
ImmuneAttackers: from left: Swain, Zyda, LaCour
“The vision for the project has been articulated by FAS and
Brown,” said Zyda. "GamePipe and the School of Cinema's Game Innovation Lab will provide the expertise to make this
vision playable, educational, and fun."
GamePipe is a collaboration between the Viterbi School's Information Sciences Institute and the department of computer science,
established as a facility aimed at doing basic research in all aspects
of gaming to produce new tools to improve the state of the art.
ImmuneAttack falls under GamePipe’s Serious
Game Research track that focuses on developing games for training and
The proposal for the Immune Attack game lays out its
parameters. GamePipe will:design and develop a compelling and
entertaining game that embeds the books pedagogy working close
collaboration with existing subject matter experts. It will
"deliver a stable application that can be handed off to FAS and
Brown University for maintenance," according to the project plan. "The
goal is to provide software that
can be updated and extended by the project’s principle investigators
without ongoing assistance from USC."
The game itelf will
- • Be "visually stunning" and set in the 3D space of the human immune system
- • Be tailored for the target audience: high school students
- • Teach real scientific information about immunology through
discovery based exploration, associative reasoning, and skill-based
- • Provide approximately 20 minutes of play time and two challenge levels of play
- • Be developed using an open source or low cost existing game engine.
- • Follow the pedagogy established by the project’s principal investigators
- • Run on low-tech computers available in today’s high schools.
The project is schedule to deliver the first two levels of
ImmunoAttack game for testing at a high school by March 2006. In
addition to Zyda, Swain, and LaCour, staff includes a full-time lead engineer, lead graphic designer,
lead programmer, plus support personnel and student designers and
Zyda won national prominence in the gaming world for his work at the
MOVES Institute at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey creating
"America's Army," a PC game funded by the Assistant Secretary of the
Army for Manpower and Reserve Affairs.
He took America's Army from conception to three million plus registered
players. He holds a lifetime appointment as a National Associate of the
National Academies, an appointment made by the Council of the National
Academy of Sciences in November 2003, awarded in recognition of
"extraordinary service" to the National Academies.
"We will deliver ImmuneAttack," he promises.