Calling All Young Scientists and Gamers Who Want to Change the World


Vanished is an online/ offline environmental mystery game for young scientists.

4.14.11 | Know a middle-school student who loves a good mystery? Scientists-in-training, age 10-14, are needed to help decipher clues connected to a massive environmental disaster.

VANISHED, an eight-week online/off-line mystery game, started earlier this month, but it’s not too late to join in (and that goes for full classes of budding scientists, too). The game ends May 31.

Until then, kids can collaborate with Smithsonian scientists and fellow players to unravel the mystery, using puzzles, online challenges, museum visits and real scientific thinking. Participants can collect scientific data from their neighborhoods and search for clues at participating museums across the country (including The Field Museum in Chicago), where they’ll find exhibits that provide useful information. Here’s a list of all museums and additional information about VANISHED.

The game was developed and is curated by MIT’s Education Arcade and the Smithsonian Institution, with the aim of involving tweens and teens in a real scientific mystery—one that just happens to encourage learning.

“The popularity of television shows like CSI, Bones, and NCIS tells us there is hunger for this kind of problem solving,” said Scot Osterweil, creative director of MIT Education Arcade and a research director in the MIT Comparative Media Studies program. “We’re eager to provide to VANISHED participants the genuinely fun and engaging experience of what it’s like to be a scientist: trying to understand the unknown, asking why something has occurred, searching for evidence and collaborating with other investigators.”

The benefits continue even after VANISHED ends. The Smithsonian and MIT will publish a handbook documenting the project’s design and techniques along with open-source software to facilitate the development of similar games.


The new game Find the Future commemorates the New York Public Library’s centennial celebration.

This next game, Find the Future, requires being in New York City, at least for the start of it, but we’re betting it’s worth the trip. To commemorate the New York Public Library’s centennial celebration, 500 gamers will be selected to spend the night in the main branch of the library on 42nd Street to complete 100 “quests”—they’ll find inspiration for their own futures by searching the library’s vast collection (including 40 miles of underground stacks) for the writings and personal objects of people who have made an extraordinary difference.

“It is first game in the world in which winning the game means writing a book together – a collection of 100 ways to make history and change the future, inspired by 100 of the most intriguing works of the past,” according to Find the Future creators, led by game designer/proponent Jane McGonigal, author of “Reality is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better and How They Can Change the World.” (Read more about McGonigal’s work and perspective on gaming.) 

Video producer Kiyash Monsef is on the development team, along with Playmatics and Natron Baxter Applied Gaming, which worked with McGonigal on the social game “Evoke.”

Applicants must complete the phrase: “By the year 2021, I will be the first person to ...” Entries must be submitted by April 21, 2011 at 11:59 p.m. Eastern Time. Winners will be notified in early May. Participants must be 18 years old by May 20 and either live in or be able to get themselves to New York City on game day. Participants will spend the night in the library, from 8 p.m. to 6 a.m.

Starting May 21, the game will be open to everyone. Visitors to the Stephen A. Schwarzman branch of the NYPL can play with their smartphones or on library computers. Players around the world can log on to the game site at The game is free to play—check out the FAQ for more information. Good luck!

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