App review by Jenny Bristol, Common Sense Education | Updated July 2014
Velocity Raptor

Velocity Raptor

Sharp but stripped-down simulation explores the theory of relativity

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Grades
7–12
Subjects & Skills
Science, Critical Thinking

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Pros: Accurately reflects what happens to light, color, and perception when objects move close to the speed of light.

Cons: Unsophisticated visual style.

Bottom Line: It's a smart game that tackles a tough but extremely important subject -- relativity and the major effects of near light-speed -- but the low budget style won't "wow" students, and support isn't well integrated..

Since little of the science is taught during play (beyond toying with the simulation), some external teaching will be necessary for students to gain the proper context -- and there's certainly no lack of resources online to help illustrate and explain relativity. Teachers can give a detailed lesson themselves, or advanced students can read the information contained on the site for self-instruction. Students can also use the level editor to apply what they've learned and to challenge their classmates, or teachers can use it to create special challenges for students. The website's forum can be helpful for students and teachers alike.

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Velocity Raptor illustrates Einstein's complex theory of relativity by allowing students to explore the effects of traveling at close to the speed of light. Since much of how we experience our surroundings changes in that context, each level is an obstacle course that skews and warps and even changes color, depending on which direction and speed students are moving. The graphics are simple but do their job in communicating these effects; however, the controls are a bit clunky. Patience and a steady hand will help students succeed.

Velocity Raptor does have plenty of opportunity for learning -- with a lot of scientific terminology and concepts built in -- but students will need to work for it and existing background in relativity will help students get the most out of it. They'll experience relativity in the game, but will need to consult the included external (to the game) resources to fully understand what they're seeing. It's likely to be less fun for students who get frustrated easily, but those who learn well on their own and don't mind repetitive play will enjoy both the challenge and the included level editor, where they can make their own levels to share and challenge others.

Overall Rating

Engagement

It lacks some of the more gamey hooks students might expect, but gritty students who enjoy a challenge will learn a lot about relativity.

Pedagogy

Students apply included background reading and information to complete each game level. 

Support

There's some basic instruction built into play, but students will need to dig into the Relativity 101 section which is essentially a webpage with background information. This website also has forums for tips, clues, and discussion.


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