Quirkies Evolution

Sep 5, 2016

A free, fun, and simple game app for iPhones and iPads that teaches kids about the biology of evolution and adaptations.

At first glance, Quirkies is a cute and fun game. A player can select a mate for an available creature, called “quirkie,” and produce offspring that will inherit genes from the parents. The game moves quickly and introduces new features along the way. Players can collect quirkies, name them, collect badges, gather survival points, fight challengers, help offspring, read silly comments, take pop quizzes, cause mutations, and even manipulate genes in a specialized biolab. As the game progresses new traits evolve over generations, like colors, eyes, nose, hair, or limbs. Players can select mates for their quirkies with traits that they want to maximize, like a cool color, or big beautiful eyes. Over time, players can share their quirkies with friends, view their family tree, observe how the traits develop, track the families, and get news alerts on siblings.

Alas, it’s not as simple as one might think. As in nature, the creatures will also experience hardships. Potential mates could reject them (Oh drat!). Harmful mutations can occur (Life is not fair). They can even risk death without reproduction (Danger!). It’s not all roses and rainbows in the life of a quirkie.

This app was conceived and designed by a father-daughter team for a 4th grade project as a way to incorporate their shared love for biology and coding. But it has grown in scope and nature — can we say the game has evolved?! Quirkies was developed at Indiana University by Filippo Menczer, a computer and cognitive scientist in consultation with evolutionary biologist Matt Hahn with the goals to be scientifically accurate, dispel myths about evolution, and slow the spread of misinformation on the subject.

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Parents and teachers will appreciate the simple and intuitive nature of teaching the basic principles of evolution and natural selection in a fun and scientifically accurate manner. Children can easily visualize how traits are passed through inheritance and mutations. They will begin to see that evolution is based on science and is not an unproven theory.

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