Creating great learning games is hard. First of all, creating a great game is hard, period. Figuring out how to properly balance characters, narrative, core gameplay and metagame goals so that you want to come back to the game again and again is more art than science. Add to this the additional goal that the gameplay should translate to something that you can actually use in life, and the amount of variables becomes mind-boggling.

Yet we are confident it can be done. We’ve built a team of some of the planet’s best game designers and developers. We’ve teamed up with scientists of equal pedigree in their fields. Experts in particle physics and scientific research, such as CERN’s Rolf Landua, Oxford’s Marcus du Sautoy and University of Helsinki’s Mikko Voutilainen, steer our fact finding to the right direction when building gameplay puzzles.

Challenges in Learning Games

Learning games are notoriously difficult to balance. A great majority of effective games are simply not compelling enough games. As soon as kids get to choose between them and Clash Royale, they all choose the latter. On the other hand, some alleged learning games are a lot of fun to play, but their learning efficacy is negligible.

To this end figuring out how to position the learning content and how to measure its efficacy is important. Our philosophy is that learning games should not compete with formal learning, but rather complement it. Kids play on average two hours of mobile games per day. If we could insert something in those two hours that’s actually good for you, it would already be awesome.

In designing Big Bang Legends as a kind of “Pokémon for Particle Physics” we envision new generations of kids conversing about atoms like Helium, Vanadium and Beryllium with the same literacy they now discuss Pikachu, Squirtle and Bulbasaur.

Kokoa Evaluation of Big Bang Legends

We hold ourselves accountable for the efficacy of our work. It is important for us to establish that the gameplay actually translates to real learning. To this end, we have embarked upon a series of research projects to establish what learning effects Big Bang Legends has.

The Finnish Kokoa Agency is dedicated to establishing the efficacy of learning materials from the point of view of the world-renowned Finnish curriculum. They recently completed an efficacy review of Big Bang Legends. Kokoa measures efficacy of learning goals by evaluting their consistency with more than 80 of the most wanted skills to be learned based on the Finnish curriculum and various determinations of 21st century skills.

The evaluation reported that “Learning physics with Big Bang Legends is engaging and learning happens while the player doesn’t necessarily even realize that he or she is learning.” The evaluation concluded that “Subjects that are normally consider quite complex are made easy to approach and learn.” Finally, the evaluation also stated, “Very good quality game with diverse and challenging action puzzle game play and beautiful graphics.”

We’ve been happy the evaluation confirms our discovery that the game’s current version helps effectively stealth learn concepts from the quantum world. This has been something that we’ve also seen repeatedly in playtesting with kids ranging from seven-year-olds to fifteen-years-olds.

Establishing Further Efficacy in Big Bang Legends

Our work in establishing the efficacy of our games is only getting started. We will soon kick off empirical university research on comparing the learning effects of Big Bang Legends with more traditional learning materials.

Interestingly enough, traditional learning materials work well if the student is engaged. The challenge is how to get a student excited about something like particle physics in the first place.

Our thinking is that great learning games can work as the first spark for the love of learning in future generations. They can convey the awe and wonder you see shining in the eyes of our scientific experts as they tell us about the wonders of particle physics.

Eventually learning games can convey the love of learning about a variety of topics. Perhaps kids will soon grow to think about particle physics and atoms as something as cool as colleting Pokémon.

Lauri Jarvilehto Lauri is the Chairman and Co-Founder of Lightneer