Welcome to the teacher information site about Life Preservers, a learning game about the history of life on Earth!

Life Preservers is a video game that teaches National Science standards on evolution, adaptation, and the history of life on earth. It is an engaging, fun, pedagogically rich learning experience that can fit within a single class period.

Life Preservers was funded by the National Science Foundation. It was created by the Games for Entertainment and Learning Lab and is copyrighted by Michigan State University, 2005.

The project was conducted by Professor Carrie Heeter (heeter@msu.edu), Brian Winn (winnb@msu.edu), and colleagues at Michigan State University.

The design and study of Life Preservers was supported by a grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF-0217197). We wish to thank Ruta Sevo from
NSF and to acknowledge invaluable research, game design, and art support by
graduate students Jillian Caywood Winn, Patrick Shaw and Amanda Flowers Lange and Art
Direction by Darcy Drew Greene.

To give teachers flexibility when they use Life Preservers in their classroom, we created a long and a short version of the game. The short version has only one round, THE AGE OF DINOSAURS. The long version has that same identical round and then continues to THE AGE OF MAMMALS.

You can play either game from this page. If you use it with your students we suggest you direct them to the main web site (lifepreservers.msu.edu) rather than this page which includes information for teachers.

PLAY the Full-Length Version of Life Preservers

  • Length: About 45 minutes
  • Rounds: Age of Dinosaurs and Age of Mammals

PLAY the Short Version of Life Preservers

  • Length: About 30 minutes
  • Rounds: Age of Dinosaurs (only)

Life Preservers has been used to conduct research on gender, science games, play style, and learning. Results are described in the following publications:

Heeter, C., Winn, B. (2008). Implications of Gender, Player Type and Learning Strategies for the Design of Games for Learning. In Beyond Barbie to Mortal Combat: New perspectives on games, gender, and computing. MIT Press, Cambridge, MA.

Heeter, C. (2008). “Playstyles and Learning Styles,” in Ferdig, Rick, ed., Handbook of Research on Effective Electronic Gaming in Education, IGI Global.

Winn, B. and Heeter, C.  (2006/2007). “Resolving Conflicts in Educational Game Design Through Playtesting.”  Innovate 3 (2).   

Heeter, C., B. Winn, and D. Greene. 2005. Theories meet realities: Designing a learning game for girls. Conference Proceedings of the DUX (Designing the User eXperience) conference, San Francisco, November. http://commtechlab.msu.edu/publications/files/dux2005.htm