National Science Foundation Phase I Grant for a Group STEM Challenge

Heredity Module (2)


We have some exciting news today!

Immersed Games is being awarded a Phase I Small Business Innovation Research grant from the National Science Foundation for development of a new innovation to work with Tyto Online.

The official title of the grant is, “A Group Video Game Challenge for Integrated Applied Science Learning.”

This innovation pulls from the experience of dungeons or raids in video games, where groups of players team up to defeat “bosses” in epic battles. Except in our case, student will be able to apply learning in groups to solve challenging applied problems that utilize the learning they accomplished across multiple science modules of science in order to earn group rewards.

Innovation Description

The overall concept of this grant’s research and development work is that after students have learned science content in Tyto Online or at school, they’ll be presented with a challenge that integrates learning across their units or topics. Groups of ~5 students will travel to a location on the alien planet where the drakons, a dragon-like creature, have undergone devastation! Their population is in turmoil due to a variety of potential factors that the students must solve.

The students will use skills from multiple areas of science as they work to solve the problem together. After they are introduced to the problem, they’ll jump into problem exploration: collecting data like blood samples from the drakons, setting population devices out, and sampling water quality. They will be able to generate graphs of their data, propose hypotheses, and together figure out what they think is hurting the drakons.

Then, following an engineering practice model, they’ll move into solutions — generating possible ideas, supporting the best ones, testing them, seeing results, and determining the best possible solution for fixing the problems they identified. Solutions may include selective breeding to reduce the prevalence of the genetic predisposition, creating a vaccine, environmental changes, or other potential solutions.

We are also building this with a scalable framework so that we’ll be able to use this basis to create more challenges, in the future building it into an expansion to our back-end content authoring system to use more regularly in students’ gameplay.


Educational Benefits

Integrated STEM Learning. Students will have already individual learned the content areas utilized (cells, ecology, heredity, and evolution) in silos, with isolated instruction in each content area. One of the goals of the proposed innovation is to focus on integrated STEM learning, addressing the subjects together in a way more similar to real world problem solving (Roberts & Cantu, 2012). Integrated STEM learning has been argued for by educators who argue that it provides contextual, deeper knowledge which will help students be more competitive as they actively engage and connect their learning areas into cross-domain skills (Boy, 2013; Relan & Kimpston, 1991; Sanders, 2012).

Problem Based Learning. The proposed innovation also utilizes a problem based learning approach, which is a form of constructivist learning. In problem based learning, students are introduced to a setting, start a problem, research and set their own hypotheses, and engage in self-reflection as they work to solve problems. The benefits of problem based learning include situating learning in context, encouraging accessing of prior knowledge for high-road transfer, improving metacognitive awareness, and long-term retention (Hmelo & Evensen, 2000; Gavriel & Perkins, 1989). Students who use problem based learning are even more likely to use basic science as a tool for problem solving than students in a traditional curriculum (Hmelo & Evensen, 2000).

Cooperative Learning. Another benefit of the proposed innovation is the focus on cooperative learning. According to Terwel (2003), the general aim of cooperative learning is how to think for oneself. Some researchers, such as Gillies and Ashman (2003), argue that cooperative learning has the broadest set of diverse, positive outcomes for learners. Cooperative learning has been shown to lead to more productivity, better communication, improved motivation, and even feelings of acceptance and inclusion among group members (Gillies & Ashman, 2003).

Using the structure of video game raids for cooperative learning as an extension also encourages more acceptance of failure, as in video game raiding, failure is seem as progress as long as the raid group is able to reflect and improve strategies in their next attempts (Chen, 2009). In terms of developing 21st century skills, raids also require cooperation and communication, not just content or skill areas, which helps develop those skills further (Chen, 2009).

Interested in participating?

We will be conducting a small study towards the end of the project, around April/May, in order to analyze how well the design has worked, the student’s use of tools, etc.  If you’re interested in your child participating, please fill out this form to get on our interest list!

See the Grant Abstract on the NSF Website

Reference List

Boy, G.A. (2013). From STEM to STEAM: Toward a human-centered education. Proceedings of the 31st European Conference on Cognitive Ergonomics; Toulouse, France, August 26-28.

Chen, M. (2009). Communication, coordination, and camaraderie in World of Warcraft. Games and Culture 4, 47-73.

Gavriel, S., & Perkins, D.N. (1989). Rocky roads to transfer: Rethinking mechanics of a neglected phenomenon. Educational Psychologist, 24(2), 113-142.

Gillies, R.M., & Ashman, A.F. (2003). An historical review of the use of groups to promote socialization and learning. In R.M. Gillies and A.F. Ashman (Eds.), The social and intellectual outcomes of learning in groups (1-18). New York, NY: Routledge Falmer.

Hmelo, C.E., & Evensen, D.H. (2000). Problem-based learning: Gaining insights on learning interactions through multiple methods of inquiry. In. D.H. Evensen & C.E. Hmelo (Eds.), Problem-based learning: A research perspective on learning interactions (1-18). New York, NY: Routledge Falmer.

Relan, A., & Kimpston, R. (1991). Curriculum integration: A critical analysis of practical and conceptual issues. Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Educational Research Association; Chicago, IL, April 3-7.

Roberts, A., & Cantu, D. (2012). Applying STEM instructional strategies to design and technology curriculum. Proceedings of the Technology Education in the 21st 29 Century (111-118); Stockholm, Sweden.

Sanders, M. (2012). Integrative STEM education as “best practice.” Presented at the 7th Biennial International Technology Education Research Conference; Queensland, Australia, Dec 8.



Tyto Online Early Access Launched

Tyto Online Early Access Launched

We are thrilled to announce that our Early Access version of Tyto Online is now live!

Tyto Online is a MMORPG where you play as an evacuee from the now uninhabitable Earth. You’re settling on the planet Ovo to study at Tyto Academy as you establish your new life. Explore and complete quests while learning real science concepts.

Because we are launching now, we also have a 20% off discount for the next week only! This brings the game to $19.99 right now.  The way the pricing works — at full launch, it will have a subscription, so you’re pre-purchasing your first 3 months’ subscription, but all the early access game time until then is included. The earlier you buy, the more time you get during early access.  We do expect some real bugs and issues right now, so the discount is definitely a thank you for helping us figure that out now!


What does Early Access mean?

Tyto Online is still active in development, and people who join during Early Access get to help shape the process!  This means giving feedback, voting on the next features, reporting bugs, coming up with new ideas, doing live streams with the developers, and more.  This also means the product itself is still going to be buggy and incomplete, so if you’re wanting a completely polished experience, you should wait for the full launch in summer/fall of 2017.  Read more about our early access process here.

Links & More Info:

View the game website and buy there:

View the Steam store page:




Tyto Ecology: 1 Week Stats Update!

Tyto Ecology: 1 Week Stats Update!

It’s been one week since we launched Tyto Ecology, and we’ve been excitedly watching our analytics and asking questions of users whenever we get a chance.  Today we wanted to share an infographic on our ecosystem’s 1 week stats!

We were happy to see our players put down a lot of decomposers, and 7.5x as many plants as animal territories.  As expected, most people focused on unlocking more species before looking into unlocking more of their zones and growing the physical space they have for their ecosystem. It definitely gets more challenging as you manage a larger area, so I’m looking forward to the reaction as more of our players expand!

Tyto Ecology Launches for iPad on the App Store!

Tyto Ecology Launches for iPad on the App Store!

[UPDATE: Tyto Ecology is no longer available on iPads, and is only available on PC/Mac via Steam.  Unfortunately, we didn’t have enough visibility on iPad to have sales to continue to support that platform.]

We are excited to announce that our first game, Tyto Ecology, is now available to download on the iOS App store! We have been working hard for over a year to create this game and we’re thrilled to share it with the world. In Tyto Ecology, you are given the power to build your own ecosystem while learning about life sciences along the way. You must think critically and solve problems in order to balance a beautifully simulated biome, where your decisions determine if life succeeds or fails.

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Steam Greenlight: The First 48 Hours

Steam Greenlight: The First 48 Hours

Not very long ago, our team explored the idea of bringing our iPad game to the PC/Mac platforms following the mobile release. The benefits were obvious: larger audience, largest distribution platform, and low costs to make the move. The problems were also obvious: the game was built for iPad and may not port well, the time investment is time that could be spent polishing the mobile version, and no one on the team had experience with the Greenlight process Steam uses to curate projects for eventual release through the Steam client.

I wanted to take a moment to share the last 48 hours with you to help you relive the rollercoaster our team rode (and continues to ride), and share some of the lessons we’ve already learned.

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Keyword Research for an iOS Indie Game

Keyword Research for an iOS Indie Game

We’ve been working on our marketing strategy for Tyto Ecology, our upcoming game, and decided to start looking into a way to optimize our search results in the Apple app store. Having a game show up as early in search results is essential to actually being found in any marketplace!

After doing some research on App Store Optimization (ASO) tools, we decided to try out Sensor Tower: it seemed to offer what we were looking for in terms of keyword research and competitor analysis, so we wanted to write out a blog post to share what we’ve learned from the process for other indie studios also looking into this.

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Immtern Highlight: Lindsey Garland

Immtern Highlight: Brittany Bovier

Immtern Highlight: Brittany Bovier

Brittany Bovier, Content Marketing Intern

What made you want to work at Immersed Games?
I was interested in joining a start-up company because of the increasing opportunities in development and branding. Also I love the fact that the atmosphere at Immersed is a friendly and inviting environment.

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Time to Reboot!

Time to Reboot!

After the successful Kickstarter campaign, we knew that our work was only just beginning. Everyone was working longer, harder and more efficiently. We recruited many new interns since the fall, and they had been great with handling their assignments as we pushed to make deadlines.
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