Drexel and Chemical Heritage Foundation Mix Artifacts with Mobile Gaming to Create History of Alchemy Experience
The Chemical Heritage Foundation wants to set the record straight about alchemy. The medieval practice, often perceived as a dark art or pseudoscience, actually helped form the process of scientific experimentation and influenced our modern understanding of chemistry and medicine. On its quest to shed light on alchemy, the Foundation, with support from the National Endowment for the Humanities, has enlisted help from Gossamer Games, a game design startup in Drexel University's Entrepreneurial Game Studio, and Frank Lee, PhD, director of the EGS, to create a mobile gaming experience about the "golden age of alchemy" using books, art and artifacts from CHF Museum's alchemy collection.
"Recent decades have seen a revolution in how scholars understand alchemy," said Erin McLeary, museum director at theChemical Heritage Foundation. "Alchemy in the early modern period was not a fool's quest for riches and eternal life: it provided economic opportunity, invited curiosity, and examined relationships between humankind and the natural world. Alchemy shaped ideas about experimental scientific practices and paved the way for modern chemistry. We are thrilled by this opportunity to use our painting and manuscript collections to bring this dynamic and exciting history of alchemical practice to a wider audience."
Funded by a $100,000 NEH grant, game developers at Gossamer Games and the Entrepreneurial Game Studio will produce a mobile game, for iOS and Android devices, intended to help visitors engage with its alchemy collection.
Gossamer Games is an independent game design studio founded by students from Drexel's Entrepreneurial Game Studio and supported by its Baiada Institute for Entrepreneurship. Gossamer is known for its work with aesthetic-driven games that encourage players to explore, rather than compete. Its first release, "Sole," in which players uncover the history of an ancient civilization by painting the world with light, was a finalist for the International Mobile Gaming Awards and has been showcased at the Smithsonian American Art Museum Arcade and the Boston Festival of Indie Games.
Through this project, Gossamer Games will design exploration-driven puzzles that invite players to investigate and experiment inside digital translations of the rich environments portrayed in the museum's collection of paintings.
"We couldn't be more excited to be partnering with the Chemical Heritage Foundation to prototype a first-person puzzle adventure game set in the 'Golden Age' of alchemy. The game will invite players to step into the world of mid-17th century London and play as a budding alchemist on a mission to unlock the secrets of early chemistry and metallurgy," said Thomas Sharpe, founder of Gossamer Games. "The history of alchemy is deeply rooted in a blend of mystery and drama that lends itself perfectly to games. We're thrilled to start exploring designs inspired by this beautiful collection of art that captures the excitement and wonder of scientific advancement."
Drexel's Entrepreneurial Game Studio is often at the center of new, immersive and interactive game-play experiences around the city. Under the guidance of founder Frank Lee, an associate professor in Westphal College of Media Arts & Design, the EGS has brought arcade games to Philadelphia skyscrapers, transformed a library into augmented reality theater and could one day help us fend off an alien invasion.
"EGS brings deep knowledge of innovative game practice, fluency with navigating academic circles, and experience curating engaging digital games for the public," Lee said. "The CHF–Gossamer–EGS partnership unites multiple sets of humanistic and digital expertise to create a game that is historically grounded, visually compelling, and informed by contemporary research on innovative gameplay."