A new video game called Microscopya takes players inside the human body. Molecular biologist Dr. Beata Mierzwa and a team of collaborators set out with a goal to use artistic imagery to spark interest and excitement about science. Mini-games come in the form of science-themed puzzles, unlocking achievements as your customizable avatar travels through a human cell. The game also brings awareness to women in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math). Just choose your hair, skin, and lab coat color and you’re ready to play!
This science-themed point and click adventure game is set amongst stunning visuals and will engage people of all ages. It gives strong The Magic School Bus vibes in a wonderfully nostalgic way. Indeed, Dr. Mierzwa makes her own dresses and other science-themed fashion similar to the beloved Ms. Frizzle’s wardrobe.
Check out the game on Android, iOS, or browsers. If you’ll be in San Diego for Comic-Con, visit the STEAM Fair at the Comic-Con Museum July 21-24, 2022 to meet Dr. Mierzwa and check out the game. Below, she shares more about the inspiration behind Microscopya and just how much collaboration goes into creating a new video game.
Nerdist: What are your own video game influences?
Dr. Beata Mierzwa: My favorite video game from my childhood is the original Final Fantasy VII. I loved immersing myself in the elaborate story, the intricate world, and the absolutely amazing music. It was the reason why I decided to learn how to play the piano. More recently, I’ve been impressed with games like Gris, Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice, and Detroit: Become Human. In addition to being visually stunning, each of these games tackles complex issues within our society and invites the player to explore these themes from a new angle.
Machinarium and Child of Light were huge inspirations for Microscopya. We definitely looked to those games when making decisions on the ambiance of the world we were creating. I’ve often said that if I hadn’t gone into science, I would have loved to study video game design. Creating Microscopya has completely changed the way I experience games that I play myself.
What’s the goal of Microscopya?
Microscopya makes scientific concepts more accessible to help drive a shift in how science is communicated. One of our goals is to combat outdated stereotypes and gender norms surrounding academia by showing that science is for everyone. By allowing players to explore the complexity and beauty of the world inside every living being, and painting a more diverse picture of what it means to be a scientist, Microscopya aims to reach and inspire students who fall outside the scientific stereotype.
The game features puzzles based on real molecular mechanisms and hand-drawn illustrations to create a fantastical experience that highlights the magical world inside us. We invite players of all ages and backgrounds to take an immersive journey through the inside of the cell and explore the intricacy of the molecular world that makes all life possible.
Tell us more about the music.
I consider myself incredibly lucky to have wound up with Jamie van Dyck as our composer. Having a musician who shared our vision for the game was incredibly important. His band, Earthside, is one of my all-time favorite bands. I mentioned my project when I joined a virtual get-together for his birthday at the beginning of the pandemic, and he got really excited about it! We had a follow-up chat about the vibe of the music we wanted for the game and I was excited to learn about his interest in STEM education and empowering female scientists. The next thing I knew he had composed music that was absolutely perfect for the game!
What is one great outcome of this project for you?
I got to meet phenomenally passionate educators who are constantly looking for new ways to keep students engaged. This whole process has been such an adventure, and it’s led me to discover a whole new world of games with missions that go way beyond just entertainment. There is an amazing, thriving community working on really fun and interesting games that have a deeper purpose of education, outreach, and inclusivity. I encourage folks to check out Games for Change and the Science Game Center as wonderful examples.
Dr. Mierzwa is one of 125 IF/THEN ambassadors funded by the AAAS (American Association for the Advancement of Science) and Lyda Hill Philanthropies. The goal of the program is to empower diverse women in STEM and inspire the next generation. The ambassadors all have life-size 3D-printed statues, which were recently on display at the Smithsonian Institution.
Melissa is Nerdist’s science & technology staff writer. She also moderates “science of” panels at conventions and co-hosts Star Warsologies, a podcast about science and Star Wars. Follow her on Twitter @melissatruth.