Each month, the Indie Spotlight highlights a new game that exemplifies the creativity, cleverness, and beauty of today’s independent games market.
This month’s Indie Spotlight is:
Games exist for a broad swath of reasons. Games can bring people together and provide puzzles to solve. They can offer an outlet to socialize or to expand the horizons of our imaginations. And for many, games help us escape from the outside world for a spell. Yet in one of their more often overlooked and underutilized roles, games can also teach us something about that same outside world at the same time.
That is, if we let them.
It can be very difficult finding the right balance between an activity being educational and being fun. Depending who is doing the presenting and the information being conveyed, responses can range anywhere from a sense of excitement and wonder to the most painfully boring and corny teaching exercise this side of the Milky Way.
Just think about how mixed your museum-going experiences were as a kid, for instance. Sometimes they were the most exciting field trip you’d have in months. Other times homework seemed more appealing by comparison. While most young minds are naturally curious about the world around them, that doesn’t automatically mean everyone is going to love learning for the sake of it.
Therein lies the inherent challenge when it comes to educational books, programming, and, well, games.
While TV has bestowed us with numerous great examples of shows who successfully mixed learning and entertainment, such as Mr. Wizard, Bill Nye, Beakman’s World, and The Magic School Bus, educational games haven’t always had the same level of commercial success – largely because they’re either too heavy-handed with the ‘learning’ part or adhere too strictly to the material, thereby giving off a feeling that you’re running through an elaborate word problem more than playing a game.
Among the few who have found the correct formulaic balance to accomplish both efforts successfully lies Genius Games and its brand of science-based titles, including its latest release, Cytosis.
Cytosis is a thematic but otherwise straightforward worker placement game where players are shrunk down to the microscopic level and injected into a human cell. From there, players take turns accumulating important basic resources such as carbohydrates and lipids, synthesize important molecules like enzymes and hormones, and try to generate the most Health Points possible – demonstrating that you have what it takes to best accomplish in one hour what your body is doing trillions of times per day. And win or lose, chances are you’ll learn a thing or two about microbiology along the way.
So if you don’t know your ribosomes from your endoplasmic reticulum but are looking for a flavorful crash course in analog form, then get ready for a big little adventure around the average human cell!
Oh, and if you happen to run into Ms Frizzle, tell her ‘it’s in Nairobi’. She’ll know what it means.
Do you have a game that we should spotlight? Let us know at: firstname.lastname@example.org!