Evolutionary Video Games As a Vehicle For Interdisciplinary Education
Approximately 190 million people in the United States play video games, and the rate of engagement in this form of entertainment is increasing rapidly. Video games are therefore a viable avenue for the large-scale dissemination of educational material. The “gamer” demographic also facilitates broader impacts related to diversity and recruitment in STEM fields. For example, 48 percent of gamers are women and girls, and women over 30 are the single largest demographic sector of video game players.
We are working with undergraduate and graduate students from engineering, science and the arts to create evolutionary video games. Our premise is that evolutionary biology can be used to make better video games, because the enemies evolve and adapt to player defensive strategies. Because these games are built upon real models of evolution, they can be used to teach, demonstrate and study evolutionary biology. These projects also allow students to experience the discomfort and rewards of interdisciplinary collaboration and build their communication skills.
Barrie Robison is an associate professor of biology. His research is focused on behavioral adaptation to captivity, behavioral genomics and nutritional genomics. He has been a connoisseur of video games since 1977.
Terence Soule is a professor of computer science. His research focuses on evolutionary computation, the use of evolutionary models to evolve solutions to practical problems, including the evolution of cooperation.