Martian Boneyards: Scientific Inquiry in an MMO Game

Jodi Asbell-Clarke, Teon Edwards, Elizabeth Rowe, Jamie Larsen, Elisabeth Sylvan, and Jim Hewitt
International Journal of Game-Based Learning, 2(1), pp. 52-76. 2012.


This paper reports on research of a game designed for scientific inquiry in a new and publicly available massively-multiplayer online environment (MMO). Educators and game designers worked together to create a highly immersive environment, a compelling storyline, and research-grounded tools for scientific inquiry within the game. The designers also played characters within the game that allowed them to deliver an evolving and responsive game narrative while also serving as participant observers for the research. Researchers integrated these observations with survey data, log data, artifact review, and interviews, to provide a broad picture of the player experience and the gaming environment. This study provides evidence that sustained scientific inquiry can be nurtured in an MMO game and that gamers’ relationships with characters in the game and other players may help facilitate that inquiry.