From edtech

VR Data Visualization

As a part of my research on educational games, I deal with a lot of in-game data trying to figure out what players are doing. This is really helpful for iterative design because the collected data can point out things like where players quit, how long players play, and what parts of a game are interesting. This information is super helpful when you’re tweaking levels, or making changes to gameplay.

A type of analysis I like to use as a first pass visualization is a heatmap. There’s a great article about heatmaps over on Gamasutra that does a good job of showing how this analysis can guide game design. The featured image (above) is a heatmap visualization of data gathered from the game Fair Play. The bright red spots show areas where players gathered most and the blue spots indicate less activity. I have a paper coming out soon about some of my findings from running this type of analysis on Fair Play, and I’ll make sure to upload it once it’s available.

Sometimes 2d heatmaps don’t tell the whole story. If the game itself isn’t 2d, some information like height might be discarded. Once I became familiar with the google cardboard API I created a 3d version of the heatmap so that I could view the data for several angles at once. The demo worked well and I was happy to see the particles appear on the level. Compared to the usual 2d rendering, this version felt much more intuitive. Plus, it made the level look like a magic snow globe which was really cool. The response has been positive so far, and I might make the demo available for download if people are interested.

Once I showed the demo to my friends over at the Complex Play Lab we started to brainstorm other data sets we might be able ti visualize in a similar way. Matthew whipped up a data set with 3 clusters, and I started to code something that would generate these dots in a virtual reality headset. This resulted in the following visualization:

3d Data Visualization

Like the Fair Play demo, this app allowed us to view the data from several angles in real-time which gave a better sense of how close the clusters were to one another. This was really exciting because a couple of years ago (while I was working with the Epistemic Games Group) we had trouble visualizing multi-dimensional data using 2d visualizations. By adding another dimension we got a much better feel of the data, at least for a first pass.

I like to think this counts as part of my game a week, cause it’s cool, but, let’s be real, it isn’t. I’ll get back to that soon!

Intelligence Crisis: Codename MACBETH

Best Business game awardAdaptive force award

Game Description:
In MACBETH, players, called “analysts,” are presented with a fictional scenario of an impending terrorist attack, and their task is to figure out who the suspect is, where the attack will occur, and what method of attack will be used. MACBETH is a turn-based game, where a human participant plays cooperatively with two non-playable characters (NPCs). In any one turn, analysts are able to gather two pieces of information about the suspect, location, and/or weapon from a combination of intel sources. After gathering information, the human player can generate a hypothesis or aid another analyst (an NPC) if they have information proving or disproving the other analyst’s current hypothesis. Throughout the game, analysts learn about the cognitive biases, and receive implicit and/or explicit feedback (based on condition) encouraging them to delay making a hypothesis, seek disconfirming information that can be used to disprove their hypothesis, and offer alternative hypotheses in their efforts to mitigate confirmation bias.

macbethMap macbethHub

Lead Game Designer / Game Prototype Designer.


  • 2014 Best Business Game – Intelligence Crisis: Codename MACBETH Serious Games Showcase.
  • 2014 Best Adaptive Force Game – Intelligence Crisis: Codename MACBETH Serious Games Showcase.

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Fair Play

Player's Choice

Game Description:
Fair Play was created as a way to address issues of implicit bias in a safe environment. In Fair Play, the player assumes the role of Jamal, a new graduate student. Along the way, the player is face with bias scenarios, which they must address in order to successfully make it through their first year. It was our hope that, through gameplay, players will be exposed to various anti-bias strategies, which they will incorporate into their daily lives.

fairplay_logo fp

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Play Now!
Mac PC

Lead Game Designer, Programmer, Writer, Producer.


  • 2012 People’s Choice Award, Fair Play, awarded at Meaningful Play 2012 Conference Game Exhibition, East Lansing, MI, October 18-20.


Team members: Sarah Chu, Belinda Gutierrez, John karczewski, Adam Wiens, Erin Robinson, Jake Ruesch, Allison Salmon, Greg Vaughan.

Quantum Moves

While visiting Denmark, I had the pleasure of visiting the CODER lab at the University of Arhus. My Time with the project was brief, mostly talking about score boards and time trials, but we had some great discussions. I totally recommend checking out their vimeo page.

Game Description:
In Quantum moves, players try to move a probability distribution representing an atom to a goal location as quickly as possible. Players are judged based on speed and accuracy. The data collected from participants is mined by an algorithm, and the optimal path is used in the creation of actual quantum computers. Very cool!


Play Quantum Moves


Alpha Racers

Game Description:
Alpha Racers is a fun and exciting new learning game that will help your child learn their letters and sounds! Unlike many alphabet games currently available, Alpha Racers is actually a real racing game, where your child learns their letters as they race for the trophy!


Download for iPad and iPhone


Project Description:
MuSe was designed as an introductory music toy designed in the spring quarter of 2009. Muse has undergone 8 prototype revisions and more than 10 user tests. Music teachers and musicians were also consulted during the making of MuSe. The resulting product is a simple and flexible toy for kids to play with while learning about music.

MuSe sought to help kids learn the concept of pitch. Our target audience were kids ages 3 to 5. MuSe was designed with multiple modes of play in mind and can be played by an individual or a group, either at home or at school.

The finished MuSe product had 3 modes of play.

  • In the ‘listen and play’ mode, muse plays a tone and then checks if the user’s input matched the last pitch. If the pitch matches the tone is played and the player is rewarded. If it does not match the player is urged to try again.
  • In the Improvise Play session a melody is played in the key of C. The student can play over this for as long as they wish. Students also have the choice to turn the music off so that just their notes are heard.
  • In Complete the Melody the player is first presented with a simple melody. They are then played the same melody except for the last pitch. The students must play the correct pitch to move on to another melody.

Tangible Turtle

An aspect of the original logo that always stuck around with me was the presence of a physical turtle that would obey the commands it was given. I always felt that this made programing in logo that much more impacting because something in the physical world responded to the commands issued in the program. In Tangible Turtle I decided to make the commands tangible instead. I chose to do this for many reasons centered around the idea that tangible objects would be easier to relate to than a computer program. This is especially true for younger children and those who are not comfortable using a computer. With tangible commands users would not have to worry about syntax or spelling, two things that often discourage people who are starting to program.


Project Description:
There are many things that can be missed if we simply do not take the time to reflect on the world around us. Often times people cannot engage themselves at sites of interest and do not learn about the the site as a result. WikiWorld encourages users to ask, and find answers to, things that they are interested in. Through the use of geo tagging, a user’s question persists at the spot it was asked. Other users who pass by the question can then share their knowledge by answering the question, or expand their knowledge by reading other users responses.

Visit Project Website »
Created by Dennis Ramirez – 2009