The Quantum Prisoner: a game to teach science in an interactive and fun way


Secondary school and sixth form teachers, scientific mediators, the CEA, French scientific research organisation, offers you a free video game, The Quantum Prisoner, to allow your students, to test in a fun way their knowledge in science and technology. Throughout the story, players will live out Zoe’s adventure and will need to solve over 30 puzzles calling on scientific knowledge. The method of solving each puzzle is similar to a scientific and experimental approach.

The Quantum Prisoner: a great adventure at the heart of science and technology

The Quantum Prisoner is a point-and-click adventure video game at the heart of science and technology. Playing as Zoe, you will travel across the globe to find out what happened to the physician Artus Cropp, who mysteriously disappeared back in the 1960s while he was about to reveal an incredible secret hidden inside the matter.

Featuring 10-12 hours of gameplay, the game is completely free with no registration required (unless you want to share your game between several devices), no ads, and can be played on any modern browser without the need of downloading a plug-in. The game can be fully preloaded if you desire to play offline.

The Quantum Prisoner is designed for players in the 12/13 age range and over but can be enjoyed by players as young as 8 with the help of an adult.

“As a public science research organisation, the CEA aims to open up the exciting world of science to the next generation, and has so made The Quantum Prisoner into a completely free game, in French and in English, to lower the entry barrier for a fun learning experience”, said Roland Lehoucq, an astrophysicist at the CEA and scientific advisor of The Quantum Prisoner. “We’ve designed the game to be accessible even if you don’t know anything about science – you learn as you play along, in line with the scientific approach. Informative videos, facts and assistance from the CEA researchers are all at your disposal as you play through increasingly challenging puzzles and learn about environmental and life sciences, physics, chemistry and maybe even a bit of quantum physics along the way!”

Play The Quantum Prisoner in its full version:

Screenshot of the “Quantum Prisoner” game

How to use The Quantum Prisoner in class?

Guiding laser beams, programming a robot, balancing a chemical reaction by placing the reagents and products on a Roberval balance to “Turn wine to vinegar” or simulate and maintain the camp’s power supply without a break for 48 hours, despite the intermittent nature of the renewable energy sources: these are some examples of the challenges offered by the interactive puzzles of the Quantum Prisoner. These puzzles designed and developed with scientists invite secondary school and sixth form students to test the scientific and experimental approach.

Indeed, the method of solving each puzzle is similar to a scientific and experimental approach, involving forming a hypothesis to meet the objectives of the game and an experiment phase, where players try out, observe and analyse their choices, and draw conclusions to confirm or reformulate their hypothesis. Here, the video game offers a new way of learning and understanding science thanks to the trial-and-error game and stimulating reward system within a plot based around a science-fiction storyline.

The Quantum Prisoner is a rich and varied educational tool that can be used:

  • In a modular way by teachers in their teaching sessions, through direct access to the puzzles. The scientific puzzles can be used as a scenario to introduce a lesson, as a teaching aid, or as an exercise/challenge to be completed alone or in a group. Each puzzle comes with clues in case players become stuck. At the end of each puzzle, videos by the scientists who helped to create the puzzles provide a deeper understanding of the scientific concepts discussed in the game and distinguish between science and science fiction;
  • to test the knowledge acquired at the end of a teaching session;
  • as virtual practicals to operate machines that are rarely accessed in the classroom or at home and discover abstract concepts, such as quantum physics;
  • to demonstrate the diversity and richness of scientific professions and to counter common preconceptions that still exist in our society. Not all scientists wear white coats and are cooped up in their labs! The game will take players not only to a laboratory, but also to the base camp of a scientific mission in the middle of nature, to the ATLAS detector at CERN, the world’s largest particle detector…
Screenshot of the “Quantum Prisoner” game

A fun way of learning through puzzles

The 30 Quantum Prisoner puzzles cover a wide range of subjects on the curriculum: balancing chemical equations, exploring the periodic table, learning about DNA bases, playing with laser light, producing an energy mix, programming a robot, and many more! Most of the puzzles are aimed at secondary school and sixth form students.

Zoom on Puzzle – Fractional Distillation of Oil

The Quantum Prisoner is a great resource to get kids interested in various applications of modern science, however, teachers rarely have 8 to 12 hours to spare in class for students to play through the whole game. To facilitate use in class, for homework or with distance education, the teachers’ guide outlines how puzzles can be used individually to support learning goals found within most science curricula.

Fractional distillation is a puzzle that brings in concepts of thermodynamics, heat, density and phase changes through the practical applications of fractional and vacuum distillation, which can be exceedingly difficult to do practically in the lab due to material and safety constraints.

The interactive gameplay lends itself well to an interactive discovery activity, where the learner can discover the underlying concepts through trial and error while trying to resolve the puzzle.  Alternatively, the puzzle can be used to check student comprehension of distillation and their ability to apply knowledge in a practical/industrial application.

Discover Fractional Distillation puzzle:

Screenshot of the “Quantum Prisoner” game

A selection of pictures is the author’s own (Attribution CC-BY)

About the authors:

Michael Gregory is a Scientix Ambassador for France, member of the French Science on Stage delegation, coordinator of science programs for gifted students at a bilingual school in Paris, and active member of numerous teacher groups.  In his spare time, he travels to give workshops to teachers and guest lessons at schools, always looking for more ideas to share forwards.  He has crossed over 30 countries by bicycle to connect with science educators and share ideas, many of which are shared on his YouTube channel: Michael is currently biking from Corsica to Athens and still looking to connect with teachers in Albania and Greece – please drop him a line if you’d like to connect!

Céline Lipari is responsible for the editorial content of the website She participated in the writing of the scenario and game design of the Quantum Prisoner videogame. She coordinated the scientific and educational part of the game and explanation videos with the researchers.

About The CEA: The CEA is a French public research organisation serving industry, specialising in four main areas: energy transition and low-carbon energies, digital transformation, health and biotechnologies, defence and security. With its 20,000 employees and 9 research centres equipped with very large infrastructures, the CEA actively participates in collaborative projects with a large number of academic and industrial partners, in France, Europe and worldwide.

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