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MicroRangers to the Rescue!

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The world’s most amazing ecosystems are in danger, and it’s up to you to save them! That’s the premise of MicroRangers, a new mobile game for Android and iOS smartphones that uses augmented reality to turn the Museum’s first floor into a series of animated adventures that highlight how microbial life can impact the health and security of all life on Earth.

Microrangers Screenshot
A screenshot from the Museum's MicroRangers mobile game.

“Most biodiversity is too small to be seen without a microscope. But those microbes are just as important as other forms of life in keeping ecosystems healthy,” says Susan Perkins, who advised on MicroRangers and is co-curator of The Secret World Inside You exhibition about the human microbiome.

The game has been in development since 2014, as Museum educators have worked with high school students in Museum programs as well as with game designers at Playmatics and Geomedia to create a unique experience based on iconic exhibits and dioramas.

MR Participants
Participants in the MicroRangers program testing the game at the Museum.
© AMNH/B.Joseph

“Well-designed games are powerful learning spaces, where players can learn through experimentation and failure, which is the nature of science as well,” says Barry Joseph, associate director for digital learning at the Museum. “They also serve as great tools for collaborative learning alongside friends and family.” 

Game play begins in the Hall of Biodiversity, which serves as a sort of home base. From there, players are dispatched to solve science-based mysteries in the Milstein Hall of Ocean Life, Hall of North American Forests, and the Bernard Family Hall of North American Mammals, with directions, clues, and three-dimensional animations popping up on their phones, offering a different way to interact with even the most familiar exhibits.

Augmented reality coins, available at the Membership desk in the Theodore Roosevelt Rotunda, help bring characters in the game, like the animated scientists you meet on missions, to life.

MicroRangers Coins
Augmented Reality coins help bring MicroRangers to life.

“The way we’re using augmented reality will mean the game is all around you,” says Hannah Jaris, a senior coordinator who helped lead the development of MicroRangers.

Designers say the ways people play the game will provide design lessons for the future. How users are playing the game and what activities and interactions they embrace or ignore will help to shape the experiences offered by future Museum games.

“The ideal Museum visit is also the ideal game,” says Joseph. “You connect with exhibits, connect with the people around you, and learn something new.”

To learn more about the role microbes play in human health, check out the Microbiome Week videos produced by the Museum, as well as our friends at Gross Science, BrainCraft, and Science Friday.

MicroRangers is free and available to download from the iOS App Store and Google Play. To learn more, visit amnh.org/MicroRangers.

A version of this story originally appeared in the Summer issue of the Member magazine Rotunda.