At Play in the Cosmos

Main Article Content

Kurt Squire


At Play in the Cosmos is a game for University-level Astronomy courses. Designed as a collaboration between the Games + Learning + Society Center, an academic center at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and Norton & Company, Cosmos is intended to support a “game-first” model of curriculum in which students play the game before engaging in other activities. Cosmos includes about 4 hours of game play and spans the entirety of course. It includes over 25 embedded simulations that are also used for homework, lectures, and demonstrations. The design process and resulting artifact was colored by institutional constraints, specifically a lengthy pre-production that demanded extensive documentation. The subsequent development process followed a relatively linear, waterfall process and resulted in linear game. Designers attempted to mediate this linearity through a crafting system that enabled players to explore the Universe and mine celestial bodies for resources. As a game intended to compete in the market, Cosmos included a relatively high production quality led by a team experienced in AAA development processes, and the chapter focuses on the development of art styles, interfaces, and fitting voice overs in on a constrained budget and timeline.


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How to Cite
Squire, K. (2021). At Play in the Cosmos. International Journal of Designs for Learning, 12(1), 1–15.
Author Biography

Kurt Squire, University of California Irvine

Kurt Squire is a Professor in Informatics at UC, Irvine and a Research Scientist in the Connected Learning Lab where he directs the Participatory Learning Group. Squire’s research interest is in the use of technology tools to promote civic participation, particularly around critical computational literacy.