Design a chemistry video game: The Wimmelbild approach

This post was inspired by the content and the comments of an old blog post of Chemjobber from 2012. The blog posts literally asks ‘Isn’t it time for a really good chemical video game?

Still, there is no good chemistry video game in 2014 – or I did not hear of any. Thus, I think it is time to design one since we’re all creative chemists/researchers, aren’t we? First, we have to think of the genre of game we want to design. In this case it will be a wimmelbild game. I plan this posts as series with other genres of games coming in future episodes.

Wimmelbild is a German word and means picture-with-lots-of-stuff-in-it. In English it is hidden-object-game. I like the German word since I think it describes the type of game more than the English representation. So, I will use it throughout the text.

A Wimmelbild game is actually a casual-puzzle-solving-adventure game-mix. The player can click through and explore many well-drawn, beautiful, and detailed screens, which show a lot of stuff (that’s why the name). The player has to find and collect items, combine them, use them, and solve puzzles in order to advance in the story. Traditionally, the story itself is usually completely bogus and most times involves things like magic and such. Big Fish Games is one of the biggest publishers of Wimmelbild games. Below are two screenshots of Mystery Trackers: Blackrow’s Secret.

A typical scene in a wimmelbild game. Find some items in lots of stuff.

A typical puzzle (right) in a wimmelbild game. Figured it out?


Ok, for our game we need a story, pictures with lots-of-stuff in it, and puzzles. We could go for some kind of mystery story. Most stories of this kind in such games start with driving a car, late at night with thunder and lightning and lots of rain, and then having a car crash.

However, our game will start at a typical saturday evening. It is already dark outside. Our protagonist – a PhD-student – has some work to finish in the lab. No one else is there. Suddenly, there is a noise coming from another lab. He/she investigates and finds a red fluid on the lab floor… From there our protagonist will start a journey, which takes him all through the faculty collecting glass ware, chemicals, and other items, investigating traces and samples with instruments, and using your chemical background to solve puzzle by puzzle in order to proceed further in a (traditional!) bogus story. He/She will visit and explore a.o. labs, libraries, offices, storage rooms, lecture halls, social rooms, and a cafeteria!

So, we have enough scenes with stuff in it IMHO. Seriously, just take a picture of your lab/office. It is a Wimmelbild, already, isn’t it? We need puzzles, though. Chemical puzzles! There can be all sort of puzzle from all chemical schools put into that game. Put-together-an-instrument from analytical chemistry, synthesize a compound from organic chemistry, proof-an-element-in-solution from inorganic chemistry, correct-an-chemical/math-equation from physical/theoretical chemistry, and much more! The following two pictures show how screens of a chemical wimmelbild game could look like (I did not put much effort into the design of the UI… it’s just for visualizing!).


Wimmelbild of a chemical video game. Find the glass ware given. Learning experience!


Setup a modern ion chromatography system. In the game the chromatogram should actually represent the current setup outcome.


There could be different difficult settings, too. From undergraduate (easy) and graduate (normal) to postdoc (use all of your brains and chemical background) and professor (impossible! should involve magic!). They should not only affect the details of certain puzzles or the (number of and type of) items to find to advance – they could completely change a puzzle. Imagine there is a situation in the game, in where you need to create a painkiller compound. Undergraduates could go for aspirin, which is easy to synthesize. Postdocs could go for ibuprofen, which is a little more complicate (Hoechst or Boot process). Graduates could just drink coffee, though.

Would anyone play such a game? I think I would! The only question now is: Who will make it? Is it ok to give out a project like this for a master or PhD thesis? Mmmhh….

Feel free to comment or make suggestions! Next time it will be a tycoon game 🙂