In 2017, Cardiff University’s Systems Immunity University Research Institute (SIURI) – later known as Systems Immunity Research Institute (SIRI), which might not have been the best name change, given that “Siri” might be a little already taken! – gave me a grant to develop one or two games to help young people understand how the human body’s immune system worked.
Coded in HTML5 to work on iPads and Android tablets, as well as on PC and Mac, it is a no click game, past the intro screen; and the Credits Screen, I guess, but that is optional. It was designed by me in conjunction with Callum Coles, one of my students at the time; he was working on one of my “Earn to Learn” schemes, where students get paid (actually paid) to take part in our research at USW. He had previously worked on Virtual Road World, a Road Safety Trust grant funded VR game for children to learn road safety; that will be the subject of another blog, when I get round to it. If you want more information on Callum, his (slowly being updated) web site is here and he’s @b9hoven (the sequel to Beethoven?) on Twitter if you want to chat.
The instructions can be skipped 🙂 of course, but are implicit, as you have to master the basics of game play in order to proceed to the first wave. The base mechanic being to touch a macrophage, then guide it towards the viruses. So, you can play this instruction screen, and eating all the viruses on the page automatically sends you to the first wave.
You can play it here -> MacMan (short for Macrophage Man, the macrophage being the white blood cell that engulfs foreign bodies in the blood stream, etc) is one of those games.
The strategy of the game comes from safeguaring your macrophages – you can have several active at once, like a pack – while picking off as many of the small viruses, as the big ones destroy you; however, if you are clever, the dying macmen (!) can still take out small viruses in their death throws. A lovely thing when you pull it off.
I’ve gotten to Wave 7 with a score in the late 300s, after only a little practice. Part of the appeal is anticipating the movement of the viruses, it intercept them, which is oddly reminiscent of early days of the Missile Command Arcade Cabinet