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It is 2051. Our earth’s ecosystem is reverberating as some unknown pathogen decimates plant life. A team of expert scientists has inexplicably disappeared while investigating the cause. Can you rescue the lost team, discover what is killing the plants, and save the world?

Meta!Blast is a real-time 3D action-adventure game that puts you in the pilot's seat. Shrink down to microscopic size and explore the vivid, dynamic world of a soybean plant cell spinning out of control. Interact with numerous characters, fight off plant pathogens, and discover how important plants are to the survival of the human race. The eukaryotic cell is comprised of a dizzying array of molecules, proteins, and organelles. To understand the nature of these entities and their processes across both time and space can be a daunting task. The goal of Meta!Blast is to provide a medium that lends itself to the comprehension of cell and metabolic biology. Of course, building and populating an accurate 3D representation of a plant cell is no trivial undertaking, which is why the Meta!Blast team spans numerous disciplines. Faculty and students in biology, art, computer science, music, and game design are all equally important in the construction of a compelling and accurate virtual cell game.

Meta!Blast is supported by grants from the following institutions:

1R25RR025147: National Institute of Health, Science Education Partnership Education Award

The Team


  • Bassham D, Haynes G, Klippel P, Navratil A, Ganga Rautela G, Schneller W,Shah A. 2013. Meta!Blast: an interactive environment for learning and informal education. Proceedings ICON-CIMUSET- 2013, Rio de Janeiro. http://www.cimuset.org/cms/contentmanager.do?name=Articles&method=view&pageid=view&id=cms0780079808141&biaotiid=3

  • Schneller W, Campbell PJ, Bassham D, Wurtele ES 2012. Meta!Blast computer pipeline from science to 3D art to education. Engineering of Virtual Reality, Eds: McDowall IE, Dolinsky M. International Society for Optics and Photonics. SPIE 828905.  http://dx.doi.org/10.1117/12.911289

  • Stenerson M, Schneller W, Wurtele ES. 2012. Enabling Educators to Customize the Game Environment. Procedings of Games, Learning and Society Conference, 2011. http://www.etc.cmu.edu/etcpress/content/gls-70-conference-proceedings

  • Wurtele ES, Bassham DC, Dickerson J, Kabala DJ, Schneller W, Stenerson M, Vasanth A. 2010. Meta!Blast: A serious game to explore the complexities of cell and metabolic biology. Proceedings of the ASME 2010 World Conference on Innovative Virtual Reality. WINVR2010

  • Educators

    A cell is a complex unit, made up of many types of structures, each of which functions differently and interacts with the others in particular ways. However, traditional methods of teaching cell biology, via textbooks and illustrated diagrams, do not always adequately show how the cell functions or how its parts interact in real time and space.

    In a 3D video game, players are immersed into a virtual environment that requires them to recognize, not only where the virtual space they are located, but also how the environment reacts to their actions. By presenting the cell as an interactive environment that responds to the players actions in real-time, students will not only take more active interest in what they are being taught, but also will gain a better sense of how the cell actually operates by being able to see it function as it would in real life.

    Metablast is intended to provide a gameplay experience on par with those of professionally developed commercial video games. Among the developers working on Metablast are artists, programmers, sound programmers, and writers dedicated to accomplishing high quality game design. Among their goals are creating aesthetically pleasing environments that will catch students’ attention and motivate them to explore; a storyline that is practical, believable, and will hold the attention and interest of high school and undergraduate students; and gameplay mechanics that are not only educational, but also simply fun to participate in.

    In addition, by using a video game as a vehicle to teach, students who typically do not care for science may be taught basic biological concepts simply through play. Metablast will be able to reach students who do not learn well from text or diagrams, who learn best from interactive, first-hand experience.

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