Massive Research Dump

Research Summary

Web Games

There’s no end to one-off, simplistic web games. They bring me back to the days of flash games where everyone wanted to make their own. One look at a page like this, and you’re immediately overwhelmed.

Physics Games – online physics-based games

I don’t want to make a game like those. They are a bit kitschy, and seem like great exercises for budding game developers to get a hold of game mechanics, but it felt like a missed opportunity to make yet another game like these. There are already millions.

There are a bunch more examples seen at the following sites:

Apps & More | PBS KIDS Mobile Downloads | PBS KIDS

Monster Physics™ on the App Store

There are a few main physics libraries floating around for games like these, and they all work in quite similar ways, which explains why they all feel quite similar.

Science Education (Games, and Others)


Just like those flash-esque games, there’s tons of one-off games aimed at science education. Again, from a superficial level, they seem to be the same games as above, but wrapped inside of some science based framework – like a quiz, or a matching game. Again, not what I’m aiming for.

Digital Labs

Chem Collective

Not great

ChemCollective: HTML5 Virtual Lab

myPhysicsLab Home Page

Graphs + animations

PHET – Science Simulations

Some cool examples of PHET

State Change Simulation

Gravity Simulator

Bending Light

Professional Games

These games are way more powerful. In every aspect. They provide a hook for the player to stay engaged, and they encourage open world building and exploration. Much more in the direction that I’m thinking in terms of user experience. Not necessarily in mechanics, but these games do a great job of keeping the player engaged and may have a lot to learn from.

Infinifactory – Build a factory to make stuff

Game Spotlight – Infinifactory – YouTube

Puzzle game that asks the player to solve increasingly difficult challenges. Great, but doesn’t teach anything specific, more just general problem solving and experimentation. For that, it looks like a solid game.

Don’t Starve – Collect items, build new tools, survive as long as possible

Volx Plays Don’t Starve – Episode 1 – Scavenger – YouTube

Crafting game based on surviving as long as possible. Haven’t played it, but might be worth exploring.



Again, crafting and survival. A friend raved about this game so I’m inclined to check it out. But when do I have time to play games for research???

Garry’s Mod

Garry’s Mod

Pinnacle of physics playgrounds. Garry’s mod provides a completely pointless, open-ended world to construct and play. It’s really in the vein of the experience I’m looking for. It doesn’t provide specific goals, but instead relies on the players motivation to keep experimenting. Obviously, Garry’s Mod could be used in an educational context, but that would require a bit of curriculum structured around the game itself. Really excited to try this one out.



Of course, minecraft. This game is truly incredible. The flexibility it provides is admirable and engaging to the point where I’ve seen kids dump countless hours into their worlds. Good reference for UI and mechanics since it’s a visual world building game. And my platform is a visual game building tool.


Spore / Gameplay / Playthrough / Walkthrough – Part 1 | A FIGHT FOR SURVIVAL! – YouTube

Biology, civilization, and space simulator. Really nice idea, but there’s too much packed into a single game.


Lego Mindstorms – Teach programming and robotics

Visual programming environment to control lego robots

EV3 PROGRAMMER APP – Apps – Mindstorms

p5.js Web Editor

Educational Programming Languages

  1. 1. Logo: [Logo (programming language) – Wikipedia](
  2. 2. Smalltalk: Smalltalk – Wikipedia
  3. 3. Toys: [Etoys (programming language) – Wikipedia](
  4. 4. Scratch: [Scratch (programming language) – Wikipedia](
    1. 1. event-driven programming is a programming paradigm in which the flow of the program is determined by events such as user actions (mouse clicks, key presses), sensor outputs, or messages from other programs/threads.


Inspirations / References / Books

Seymour Papert

Mindstorms: Children, Computers, And Powerful Ideas: Seymour A. Papert: 8601405140951: Books

Great quotes:

  1. 1. “In particular, the knowledge is acquired for a recognizable personal purpose. The child does something with it. The new knowledge is a source of power and experiences as such from the moment it begins to form in the child’s mind.” – pg. 21
  2. 2. “Thus, a particular subculture, one dominated by computer engineers, is influencing the world of education to favor those school students who are most like that subculture.” – pg 35
  3. 3. Forced dichotomy between left-brain vs. right-brain thinking, and the cultural separation that occurs. Instead of letting a child use his love of math to influence an interest in, say, linguistics, he’s taught instead that he’s no good at writing, and gives up. – pg 46


From Wikipedia

[Constructionism (learning theory) – Wikipedia](

The following five strategies make problem-based learning more effective:

  1. 1. The learning activities should be related to a larger task. The larger task is important because it allows students to see that the activities can be applied to many aspects of life and, as a result, students are more likely to find the activities they are doing useful.[10]
  2. 2. The learner needs to be supported to feel that they are beginning to have ownership of the overall problem.[11]
  3. 3. An authentic task should be designed for the learner. This means that the task and the learner’s cognitive ability have to match the problems to make learning valuable.[12]
  4. 4. Reflection on the content being learned should occur so that learners can think through the process of what they have learned.[13]
  5. 5. Allow and encourage the learners to test ideas against different views in different contexts.[14]

Wilson, B. (Ed.) Constructivist learning environments: Case studies in instrumental design. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Educational Technology Publications.

Direct References
Situating Constructionism

Constructionism – EduTech Wiki
“Important concepts are conscioulsy engaged and public entity. Constructionism is not just learning-by-doing, but engaging reflexively and socially in the task. Both the creation process and the produced artifacts ought to be socially shared.”

“ As adults, we all have times when we need to teach or explain something we know to someone else. To do this, we may have to bone up on the subject, talk with others, prepare notes and draw diagrams. In the process, we learn our subject well because we have to think hard about it and think of the best ways to convey it to others. It is through the creation and sharing of an object (maybe notes or diagrams or even a website or computer program) that it becomes what Papert calls a public entity and that constructionist learning is so powerfully reinforced. […] Papert also added to this process a computer program that allows us to visually represent ideas and concepts and play with them for as long as we want.” (Harel, 2003).

SimCity and English

Gromik, N. (2004). Sim City and English Teaching.


  • Bret Victor

Bret Victor – Inventing on Principle on Vimeo

Media for Thinking the Unthinkable on Vimeo
The Utopian UI Architect – re:form – Medium

  • Mike Bostock

Visualizing Algorithms
Peeling back layers of how things work

Game Making Tools


Unity – Game Engine

GameMaker Studio


Microsoft Research Visual Game Editor
Kodu | About
Kodu & the BBC micro:bit – feature demo – YouTube

Unreal Engine

Javascript Game Library for making 2D games, entirely javascript, no visual aspect

Inspirational Examples

p5 web editor

<h2Other References

Work | Institute of Play
Glass Lab Games
Playforce | Institute of Play
The Museum of Science, Art and Human Perception | Exploratorium
Brick by Brick – Museum of Science and Industry

White house held a hackathon for games geared at education

Some researchers concluded that kids see iPads as toys and thus don’t necessarily approach them with the idea of learning anything, not super interesting

Great piece from the government, who knew?

“Building Student Agency: Jason Sellers: Text-Based Video Games
Aware of the popularity of video games among his students, and as a longtime fan of video games himself, teacher Jason Sellers decided to use gaming to develop his 10th-grade students’ ability to use descriptive imagery in their writing. Specifically, Sellers introduced his students to text-based video games. Unlike graphics-based games in which users can view graphics and maneuver through the game by using controller buttons, text-based games require players to read descriptions and maneuver by typing commands such as go north or unlock the door with a key. Sellers decided his students could practice using descriptive imagery by developing their own text-based games.

Using tutorials and other resources found on Playfic, an interactive fiction online community, Sellers created lessons that allowed students to play and eventually create interactive fiction games. Prior to the creation of the games, Sellers’s class analyzed several essays that skillfully used descriptive imagery, such as David Foster Wallace’s A Ticket to the Fair, and composed short pieces of descriptive writing about their favorite locations in San Francisco.

Students then transferred their newly honed descriptive storytelling skills to the development of an entertaining text-based game. Because Sellers’s students wanted to develop games their peers would want to play, they focused on ways to make their games more appealing, including, as Sellers described, “using familiar settings (local or popular culture), familiar characters (fellow students or popular culture), and tricky puzzles.”

According to Sellers, this project allowed students to work through problems collaboratively with peers from their classroom and the Playfic online community and motivated them to move beyond basic requirements to create projects worthy of entering competitions.”

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