Viz-developed video game helps calculus undergraduates in China

Andre Thomas

André Thomas

A video game developed in part by Texas A&M [visualization] ( students, in use throughout the U.S., is helping Chinese undergraduates succeed in introductory calculus, one of the toughest classes to pass on a university campus.

The game, [Variant: Limits] ( , helps to improve the nearly 38-percent failure rate in the class, which is foundational for all science, technology, engineering and mathematics careers. The game is in widespread use by universities and students across the U.S. In June, Tencent, a leading multinational technology and entertainment company, began to distribute the game in China.

“We are excited to expand the game’s footprint and growth strategy with help from some of China’s top gaming insiders and thought leaders,” said André Thomas, a viz faculty member who also heads [Triseum] ( , a Bryan educational video game development company that developed Variant: Limits. Triseum collaborated with Viz students and an interdisciplinary group of university faculty who work together in the Department of Visualization’s [LIVE Lab] ( to create the game.

Variant and another Triseum/LIVE Lab-developed game, [Arté Mecenas] ( , which supplement a traditional, college-level art history course, combine active game play and engaging story lines with measurable learning goals in a game-based learning environment, said Thomas.

“The games mirror the sophistication and imagination of some of the most popular entertainment video games on the market, while staying true to their roots in academic rigor, research and outcomes,” he said.

The games are two of the displays in “Play Beyond the Game,” an exhibit hosted by the [Central Academy of Fine Arts Museum] ( in Beijing through Oct. 7, 2018.

The [exhibit] ( explores the integration of video games in art, education and medicine, the functional value and cultural significance of games, as well as the development of digital entertainment education in China.

Video games are not simply forms of entertainment, but also an inseparable part of life today, said Zhang Zikang, the exhibit’s curator. In the future, he added, video games’ role in education at all levels will continue to grow.

At the exhibit’s opening ceremonies in Beijing, Thomas accepted a prestigious Game Academy Award from CAFA for leading the development of Arté Mecenas, part of the art history curriculum at universities across the U.S.

Richard Nira

posted October 2, 2018