New Videogame At Play in the Cosmos Wins the Mashable/Games for Change People’s Choice Award


At Play in the Cosmos, a new videogame that teaches astronomy while thrilling players with self-directed flight missions through the universe, received the annual Mashable/Games for Change Award in the People’s Choice category at the Games for Change Festival in New York on July 31, 2017. The award was announced by Mashable’s Kellen Beck to a crowd gathered in the New School’s Tishman Auditorium. In introducing the award, Mr. Beck noted that thousands of festival followers—more than had ever before participated—voted on the People’s Choice winner, and that At Play in the Cosmos won by hundreds of votes.

At Play in the Cosmos—a coproduction of publisher W. W. Norton & Company, Inc., GEAR Learning, and Learning Games Network, with astronomers Jeff Bary and Adam Frank—was one of three finalist video games for the Best Learning Game Award, and beat out 10 other finalists in all categories to win People’s Choice. Finalists were selected by jury from more than 150 video games entered in the festival contest as a whole.

In accepting the award, W. W. Norton & Company editor Rob Bellinger remarked, "This game has been all about collaboration; about people from different groups coming together to take on an educational challenge. So, I think it’s pretty fitting that this award is for People’s Choice…We’re super proud to bring this home and want to thank Games for Change for the opportunity."

At Play in the Cosmos was developed in close collaboration with experts in game-based learning, video game design, and the teaching of introductory astronomy. Through play, the game teaches topics from basic physics all the way through cosmology. Players assume the role of a search/survey/rescue contractor and explore the known universe while responding to challenges such as redirecting a rogue comet and finding a habitable exoplanet. Throughout the game, players are asked to apply basic science-process skills to complete each mission, while also gaining an appreciation of the size and scale of the universe. Not only do players have to fly the ship, they also have to choose the right scientific tools for data-collection tasks, put underlying physical concepts to use, and make appropriate inferences based on the data collected.

W. W. Norton & Company, Inc., now in its 94th year, is the oldest and largest independent publishing company owned entirely by its employees. GEAR Learning, an educational game-development studio, is based at the Wisconsin Center for Education Research in the University of Wisconsin–Madison’s School of Education. Learning Games Network, a nonprofit, educational video game design group, is affiliated with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Jeff Bary is an associate professor of physics and astronomy at Colgate University. Adam Frank, a professor of physics and astronomy at the University of Rochester, is the cofounder of NPR’s 13.7: Cosmos and Culture blog and a commentator for All Things Considered. The game is available as a stand-alone app or as a learning experience to accompany any of W. W. Norton & Company’s introductory astronomy textbooks or ebooks. The stand-alone game will be available in August 2017.

Founded in 2004, Games for Change empowers game creators and social innovators to drive real-world change using games that help people to learn, improve their communities, and contribute to make the world a better place. The annual Games for Change Festival showcases the best and brightest game creators and change makers with panels and keynotes, demos, networking events, and an expo. The annual Games for Change Awards celebrate the year’s best social impact and learning games.