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What is Vanished?

Vanished ran from early April to late may 2011.  It is an 8-week online/offline mystery game for middle-school children, meant to inspire engagement and problem solving through science. Developed and curated by MIT's Education Arcade and the Smithsonian Institution, VANISHED is a first-of-its-kind experience where participants become investigators racing to solve puzzles and other online challenges, visit museums and collect samples from their neighborhoods to help unlock the secrets of the game. Vanished also provides a unique opportunity for players to collaborate Smithsonian scientists, MIT students, and their peers online. Players can only solve the mystery by using real scientific methods and knowledge to unravel the game's secrets.

You can learn more about Vanished by reading these news stories about the game:


Frequently Asked Questions

Can I play Vanished now?

Vanished has concluded, but we're already investigating the possibility of doing a similar game in the future.  You can sign up here to be notified about upcoming games like Vanished.  All of the vanished videos, flash games, archived video conferences, and forum archives will remain available at this site; you can create an account here to access them.

You can also check out MIT's Education Arcade and Scheller Teacher Education Program to find out more about our other games, and visit Smithsonian Center for Education and Museum Studies to check out their educational resources and programs.

Who can play Vanished?

Vanished is for middle-schoolers, aged 10 ½ - 14 years of age.

What do I need to play Vanished?

You need access to a computer with an internet connection, and a personal email address.  That's it!  A digital camera or cell phone camera is useful for a few challenges, but optional.

Is there a Vanished museum event in my area? Can I participate even if there isn't one near me?

You can participate in Vanished whether there's a museum near you or not.  Museum events, like all Vanished activities, are optional, and players can have a full experience whether or not they attend a museum event.  Even if you can't go to a museum, you can attend online videoconferences with Smithsonian scientists.

Vanished will involve events at the following museums:

Why can't I post to the forums?

Only middle-school age players are allowed to post to the forums or upload data.  This is to keep the conversations on our site age-appropriate.  Older or younger people may create “watcher” accounts where they can access all the website content, but cannot interact with other players.

Can I register my class as a group, or do students need to register individually?

We welcome classes and groups! However, Vanished requires that players who use the site register and create their own accounts.  This is so that we can ensure that the players interacting on the forums are in fact middle schoolers forming their own ideas, and also to facilitate sending parental notifications to users of the website.  If it's difficult for all your students to create their own accounts, you can have a few of your students create accounts and be “ambassadors” for the class.  Those students can then upload data and share your class’ ideas on the forums.  As a teacher you're welcome to create a watcher account for yourself, but as you are outside of Vanished's age range, you won't be able to post to the forums or upload data (see above, “Why Can't I Post to the Forums?”)

What does it cost?

It's free!  There may be an admission fee if you choose to attend a museum event.

How much time is required to play Vanished?

Vanished is a flexible, informal activity, so there are no strict guidelines as to how long players should spend on it.  A player could follow the game's progress for as little time as 10 minutes a week.  However, we think players would get the most out of the game with at least two hours a week to work on the investigations. These two hours don't have to be on the same day.  Note that players can do as many or as few activities within Vanished as they want, and most activities can be done at any time of day.  The exceptions are video conferences with scientists (which will be in the evenings) and museum events (which take place on weekends).  Museum events, like all aspects of Vanished, are optional.

Does Vanished require travel?

Most of the Vanished investigations will take place at the computer, or collecting scientific data in your backyard or school yard.  If there is a museum event in your area, you may wish to travel to that, although again, museum events are optional. Since we are working with 18 museums nationwide we may or may not have a museum in your area.

Do the students need a sponsor/mentor?

Vanished is designed to allow middle schoolers to conduct their investigations themselves, so a sponsor/mentor is not required.  However, parents or teachers are welcome to create "watcher" accounts so that they can access the Vanished site content and follow along with the players.

Are there prizes?

There aren't prizes in Vanished - the reward is solving the mystery together.  The ending of the story can only be discovered with the help of the players' investigations!

I live outside the US; can I still play?

Yes!  Vanished is designed primarily for a US audience, so there are no museum events outside the US, and some of our science challenges require you to be located in the US.  However, many aspects of Vanished can be done from anywhere.  These include web games, videos, video conferences, and forum discussions.

How do you protect players’ privacy?  Is it safe?

We have extensive privacy and safety protections in place.  Please see our Privacy Policy for details.


Got Questions?

Contact the Vanished Staff with any questions at questions@vanished.mit.edu.