What parents need to know
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Planet Mechanic is a brief educational game designed with middle and high school aged kids in mind. It's meant to show kids how planets get to be the way they are. Kids get requests from a planet's alien inhabitants, and must toy with a variety of scientific variables to get the planet just the way the aliens like it.
What kids can learn
Thinking & Reasoning
- applying information
Engagement, Approach, Support
It's amusing to twiddle knobs and change a planet's properties, but not very deep.
The tunable model illustrates a few key variables and concepts underlying the differing properties of planets.
Tutorials walk players through the basics, and some in-game help text defines terms and allows players to monitor how changes they make affect planet properties like temperature.
What's it about?
A one-eyed space alien asks the player to help him set up the perfect planet to call home. By toying with a console of different planetary variables -- the distance the planet orbits the sun or the presence of a moon -- adjust the planet's properties. Depending on what the alien requests, the player must experiment until temperature, atmosphere, length of day, etc. are just right.
Is it any good?
PLANET MECHANIC does a great job of weaving play with learning, by having kids engage conceptually and experientially with planetary science and physics. Fiddling with orbits and atmosphere helps bring the delicate interplay of variables that make up a planet to life. It's a nice, palatable introduction to key and complex concepts. This also means, however, that it has limited depth and challenge. After about 20-30 minutes of play, kids will feel like they've pretty much exhausted the game. The result is something that feels less like a fully fleshed out game and more an interactive exercise albeit a great one.
Families can talk about...
How do small changes result in big differences in the game? Can you think of other examples where a small change to one thing leads to a major difference in something larger?
Would adding more planets to the Planet Mechanic solar system change the alien's planet? How so?
Read up on the Earth. What variables would you like this game to include to add even more variety to the play?