Code Fred: Survival Mode
Deals with biology // body systems // cells
  human body // physiological processes
Intended for high school
Available on Web
Cost free
Developed by Museum of Science and Industry-Chicago (external) (professional developer)
Website at Visit game website (external)
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Code Fred: Survival Mode

He's not out of the woods yet.

Incredible phenomena are happening in your body all the time. But have you ever stopped to think about what keeps you breathing, how information travels from your senses to your brain instantly, or any of the other amazing things that constantly happen to keep you alive? Now you can jump inside the human body and participate in these physiological processes to help Fred outrun danger in the woods.

Code Fred: Survival Mode is a new game from the Museum of Science and Industry, Chicago, about the amazing complexity of the human body. The learning goals of the game are both to understand how individual body systems work by participating in physiological processes, and to show how all the body's systems are interconnected and interdependent. In Code Fred, players help a character run from a wolf by jumping inside his body to play a series of mini games. These mini games each deal with a different physiological process and involve multiple body systems. For instance, players can send adrenaline to key organs to help Fred run faster, or raise the heart rate to circulate more oxygen to the muscles. Completing each challenge helps Fred run a little farther and buys you more time to play. Lose any challenge, and Fred meets his demise.

Mini Games: Adrenaline , Hemoglobin , Heart Rate , Trauma/Vasoconstriction , Forming a Blood Clot , Nerve Regeneration , Bacteria/Cilia , Phagocytes , Lymphocytes/Antibodies , Metabolism , Digestion , Glucose/Blood Sugar Regulation

---Description provided by Developer---

Screenshots of Code Fred: Survival Mode


Expert Reviews
By scientists and teachers
12 / 15
4 / 5
5 / 5
4 / 5
Player Reviews
By everyone else (and you!)
12 / 15
3 / 5
4 / 5
4 / 5

Expert Reviews

Engineer, Game Designer, Education Innovator

Summary of Code Fred: Fred is alone and being chased by wolves in a dark forest. You have to facilitate his internal biological operations to make sure his body can keep up to the requirement of outrunning the wolves to the safety of a camp with a fire to fend the wolves off.

Summary of Gameplay Flow: The game goes through a linear series of events in Fred's adventure as you run away. When one of these events show up via a cute animation , the game indicates briefly what his body is trying to deal with (eg. "Increase body alertness and function with adrenaline", "Low on energy, assimilate nutrients"). This is accompanied with a graphical instruction of how to clear the level, usually involving clicking on different passing cells or structures to help Fred's body carry out a physiological operation to keep going on. You have to then accomplish this, usually with a timer constraint, occasionally another kind of indicator determining whether you fail or not (eg. blood loss too high). If you succeed, you get to move onto the next event in the animated narration of the adventure. If you fail you get to watch Fred getting pounced on, and are offered the option to retry the last event.

Notable features : Well done aesthetics - A simplistic but well done toon art and animation style, music that sets the right mood of visceral urgency, and the occasional sound effect for interactions in the game really round off the polish on this game pretty well. There variety of events that occur that introduce the concepts (running, slowing down, finding food, getting bitten, etc) are well animated. In fact, a curiosity for the next event and how it would be portrayed are the prime factor that made me continue playing the game after each event, rather than a burning desire to understand Fred's physiology, or anticipation of the game mechanics).

Gameplay Learning Curve - The game ramps up very nicely from a just-barely-not-boring initial click-fest to get you in the pace of the game, to some fairly challenging levels later on that really makes the little gamer in everyone feel proud of themselves when they beat. As someone who plays a lot of games, I found these challenges really make this game feel worth my time to sit down and play it (and learn some biology while I'm at it). However, I would like to point out that the content learning curve is pretty flat: the concepts don't get much harder to grasp or more obscure, and understanding them is hardly relevant to the game mechanics - someone who understands the biological concepts better won't necessarily play the game any better - see below.

Game Mechanics - When I put myself in someone else's shoes, I can see some of the more difficult levels possibly being more frustrating than challenging to some people. The game mechanics are pretty simplistic, and involve more fast-and-accurate mouse skills than a keen understanding of the physiology concepts and planning around that understanding. Those clicking skills may not come as rapidly to everyone, and I feel that shouldn't slow down a student from progressing through the content the game has to offer. As someone who loves games, but moreover loves evangelizing games in an educational context, I worry that a game like this alienates those students who are not as familiar with the twitchy controls and fast mouse skills cultivated almost exclusively by playing other games. I would much prefer if the game mechanics were centered around performing better proportional to your grasp of the core academic concept, with a lighter emphasis on hand-eye coordination skills and accuracy. However, despite all that, the gameplay is still pretty fun in the casual but button-mashing style.

Technical Execution - The designers and developers have definitely spent a lot of time making the game balanced in terms of difficulty curves and probability of randomness (where applicable). There were no notable bugs, no performance issues on my browser with requisite plugins. Some load times were slow, but the gameplay itself was smooth, and not frustrating. No loose ends, they definitely put in the 80% needed to take the game that final 20% of completion from concept to completion.

Learning/Teaching Effectiveness - The instructions are well laid out and require no hand-holding, and most importantly, does not involve a wall of boring biological text. You play each level long enough to really ingrain the details of the biological processes involved, but not so long that the game mechanics become mind-numbingly boring. From my experience, these two features alone are enough to make an amazing educational game experience. Additionally, Code Fred simplifies details that are out of its scope and irrelevant to the concept it's teaching (like the actual layout of blood vessels from the lungs to muscles), which make it that much more effective at conveying the core concept it wants you to learn at the moment. The only nitpick I have is that is it often doesn't transition that well from one lesson to the next. However, there were scenarios where it transitioned perfectly. In one such scenario, you first use a single white blood cell to destroy foreign objects and bring the evidence to the lymph node to prepare the body with antibodies. The following level involves you firing those antibodies you triggered to completely wipe out the infection of foreign objects. Unfortunately, there's only a few cases where such a good transition is maintained, otherwise the game somewhat jumps around between different areas of physiology.

Science/Content Quality - I am no biologist. My highest level was an intro to biomedical engineering course at Engineering school. This game taught me some things I did not know about the physiological process of dealing with an injury, so I'm already impressed. It was clear to me what the core lesson of each level was, and so there's no concern with the scientific "inaccuracies" regarding other things (eg. the relative sizes of molecules and organs, or the blood vessel layout I mentioned). Given my existing knowledge of biology, everything seemed accurate, and a good amount of it too. I would estimate there's enough material to map to a good 40-50 pages of physiology presented in this 15 minute experience, and that's quite amazing. The covered science also seemed relevant and potentially useful, although the game doesn't consider it in it's scope to explain how it's useful/applicable explicitly.

Replay Value - As I mentioned before, the narrative value of the linear events are by far the strongest reason to keep playing through the game. This made weak motivation to play it again. Additionally, it seemed unlikely I would gain more content from the game through additional playthroughs. Luckily, I didn't feel I needed to play the game again to understand the academic concepts.

Fun rating: 3 out of 5

Learning rating: 5 out of 5

Science rating: 4 out of 5


12 / 15

This review has 0 comments.

Melanie Stegman

Melanie Stegman
I am a biochemist, making games to teach the invisible bits of cell biology.

Summary of the game.
Code Fred is about a guy named Fred, who is apparently lost in a woods at night and is being chased by a wolf. To keep Fred from being eaten the player needs to beat a series of mini games. The games are very simple, players receive minimal graphic instructions on a screen that says “Let’s Go” before each mini game. Each game is timed and several failures will be required before the winning method is figured out. Students may ask teachers “How do I beat this level?” Teachers can confidently reply that adequate hints are provided on the “Let’s Go” screen, although a few failures will be required. The learning actually happens in the failures. The game is linear, meaning players cannot choose the order of the mini games. Each mini game teaches a process in human physiology and health. Teachers can find additional information at the website. I am still looking for lesson plans and a list of learning objectives. This review will be updated with links when they become available.

I enjoyed this game very much. I am likely biased, being a biochemist. However, I think anyone will find the whimsical nature of the game attractive and the need to provide countless molecular supplies to Fred’s organs compelling.

Balance of challenge and reward.
Code Fred is a very simple game to play and it offers a simple reward: If you succeed in clicking on the correct molecule or anatomical structure at the right time, then Fred keeps running away from the wolf. The interface, pacing and complexity of each mini-game are very smoothly crafted—I imagine the developers spent months of play testing with their target age group: 13-18 year olds.

I found that the joy of completing the games, knowing that I would get to see Fred running in the woods again and get to see what else happens to him, was enough motivation for me to re-play each of the mini games until I won each one. Each mini game must be played several times before they can be beat. This is good for learning (see next section.) However, after I knew the whole story, I found I did not have enough motivation to replay the tricky mini games again.

Experience of discovery.
Code Fred is a series of mini games. The player is given simple, graphic instructions unlimited timed trials to “teach themself” how to play each mini game. The mechanisms for each mini game are simple and carefully aligned with the learning objective of the particular mini game. For example, in the second mini game the player needs to “get oxygen to the muscles” and the player is shown a simple “bloodstream” in which hemoglobin molecules (giant, visible hemoglobin molecules) zip from the lungs to a muscle fiber. To win, the player must click on the hemoglobin molecules when they are in the lung, see them take up an oxygen, and then click on the hemoglobin when it reaches the lung and see the oxygen be released and the oxygen level of the fiber reach “max.”

This game mechanic is simple enough that after few tries (ok, 4-5 frustrating tries in which the time given seems impossibly short) the game is easy to beat. However, the games are tricky enough that they cannot be beat without learning the simple model of the physiology being presented.

Richness of the knowledge gained.
I am very impressed with the complexity of the physiology presented in Code Fred. When Fred’s wounds get infected, the player needs to grab up bacteria in his blood stream using white blood cells and then drag the cells the lymph node. The player cannot help to remember at least that the white blood cells eat bacteria and that the bacteria need to go somewhere… and the next mini game reinforces the concept by demonstrating that antibodies are made in that somewhere place (the lymph node) and can target the bacteria.

Metaphors: Every model of a process simplifies the process. However, models are very important for presenting a complete story that our brains can manipulate and build upon. Video games are models. In the particular case of Code Fred, the mini games over simplify the anatomy and the bloodstream. Blood runs through the bloodstream in two directions and when the liver “releases energy” we just see yellow dots emanating from the liver, reaching all parts of the body with no blood vessels required. And finally, molecules such as hemoglobin and antibodies are shown 1000 times bigger than life size, in order that they can be manipulated and their functions made obvious. These misconceptions are easy to overcome, when the game is followed up with standard course material. Additionally, the graphics and movements of the objects in the game are so obviously over-simplified that players, even 10-year-old players, are not likely to expect a complete picture. The game is obviously presenting models.

Code Fred makes us aware of the function of these hemoglobin molecules and gives a reason to care about those red blood cells. So go ahead and use Fred to introduce the function, the reasons why and a complete, useful model of the way our body systems work. Then consult the protein database and a general physiology book.

In summary, this is a fun casual game that requires some concentration on major mechanisms in physiology in order to win. 13-18 year old students are very likely to be well prepared for a conversation about diverse concepts in physiology after spending 15-20 minutes with this game. Teachers, please review this game and let us know whether you think it teaches physiology well!

.....................4.1 / 5 for fun

.........................3.8 / 5 for Game/Learning

........................3.5 / 5 for Science

11.4 / 15 total score = 76%

Fun rating: 4 out of 5

Learning rating: 4 out of 5

Science rating: 4 out of 5


12 / 15

This review has 0 comments.

Player Reviews


May 16, 2013


A good game, but needs more detail on how to play each section. The overall game is fun and the mini games are fun once you figure out what to do. You may die several times until you have the movements down, especially on the oxygen to muscle section and theheart rate section.

Fun rating: 3 out of 5

Learning rating: 4 out of 5

Science rating: 4 out of 5


11 / 15

This review has 0 comments.

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