Teaching science through the medium of board games?
Science is typically a marmite subject. You love it or you hate it. As a scientist, that’s my experience with people anyway. I think we can all agree that at times the general public look at science as a dull, dry subject with “complex” fundamentals. The problem is that, to an extent, this is unfortunately right. However, in our view it is the way it is communicated that is the problem.
While we think our science communicator colleagues do a great job in communicating science to the general public, unless you’re able to discuss these with huge audiences (Brian Cox as an example), you’re usually preaching to the converted. So the question is, how do you get science discussed and enthused for those that generally don’t engage with science journalism and news? We think the answer has to be through other mediums away from TV and the internet, more subliminal engagement.
We came up with the idea of doing this through board games – our passion. For our first game we designed, “Lab Wars”, we specifically chose an inflammatory subject for the sole purpose of creating debate amongst scientists and the general public to engage with one another. Lab Wars, about scientific sabotage and the general academic system of funding and publishing, was designed to do just that. The nuances of scientific life are throughout the game and give players a glimpse into the world of scientific researchers. We feel we’ve created something that has sparked debate, enthused non-scientists and made scientists around the world laugh at themselves.
Since the game successfully funded in July 2016 with almost 1000% funding and having featured in a number of leading scientific and non scientific magazines (including the Wall Street Journal, Nature News, Science Magazine, Vox.com) a number of new science games have come out with great success including the game “Pathogenesis”.
This deck building game is about building one’s own immune systems which is a fantastic concept and can only be great for ensuring the debates of science continue. While the main aim of board games is to have fun (and that was our number one aim when we designed Lab Wars) we feel they act as a fantastic conduit for enthusing the next generation of scientists and creating discussions amongst peers. After all, as board gamers, board games play a critical role in our lives we can also appreciate the critical role that science plays in our lives too.