Five-year-olds and particle physics don’t usually go in the same sentence together.
But the guys that made Angry Birds is trying to change that with the launch of Big Bang Legends, its new game that introduces particle physics concepts to kids.
Five years ago we’d joke that one day well teach quantum physics to five-year-olds,” said Peter Vesterbacka, co-founder of Lightneer, speaking at the game launch in Singapore on Thursday.
Vesterbacka was formerly with Rovio, the Finnish game firm that won fame and fortune with Angry Birds. Together with other Rovio alums, Vesterbacka started Lightneer, which aims to make high-quality educational games.
“Now were seeing five-year-olds playing Big Bang Legends and having conversations about quarks, protons and atoms. Its pretty amazing,” he said at a launch event in Singapore.
You play the game as a scientific element, collecting quarks along the way and blasting anti-matter.
For all those of you who don’t know (as I didn’t until today), quarks are the building blocks that make up protons and neutrons.
After a couple of minutes of playing the game, I learnt that there were three quarks to a proton not bad for a kid’s game.
You also collect characters, which are represented by different elements, as you go along.
The game is an example of what Vesterbacka calls “stealth learning.”
“As you start playing the game, and getting enough quarks to unlock the next character, you’re [actually] figuring out the composition of an atom,” he says.
“So you’re having fun without noticing you’re learning.”
CERN, Harvard and Oxford brains contributed.
But making the game itself was no child’s play.
Vesterbacka and his co-founder Lauri Jarvilehto, roped in experts from the likes of Oxford and Harvard University and the European Organisation for Nuclear Research (CERN) to help develop the game.
“We’re working with CERN so we’re bringing the best science [to the game],” Vesterbacka told us.
Like how Rovio turned Angry Birds into a media empire beyond just a mobile game, Lightneer will launch a TV show some time next year, starring characters from Big Bang Legends.
“Kids are proficient in Squirtle and Pikachu and Bulbasaur,” says Vesterbacka. “We hope one day they will be as proficient in Beryllium and Helium.”
The game is only available for now in Finland and Singapore, although the founders add that it will soon be available in other markets.
The game is free for download on all Apple devices, with an Android version available in May.