The Bone Wars: Design and Development, Social Media and Community

Paul Gestwicki and Charlie Ecenbarger


The Bone Wars is an original educational video game about the historic 19th-century feud between rival paleontologists, Othniel C. Marsh and Edward D. Cope. This two-player game explores their race to claim dig sites and discover new species, but its only by publishing their results that the players earn the fame that delivers victory. Just as their historic characters did, a successful player will end the game with little money, few friends, many publications, and crates of unanalyzed fossils. The game was designed and developed in a student-centered, faculty-mentored studio experience by a team of ten undergraduates and one graduate student. The team followed established practices of game design and agile software development, making effective use of a dedicated lab environment. The incremental and iterative development process was publicly shared on the team's blog and on Twitter, and we describe the impact that this had on the team and on the community of potential players.