M Curie is a serious VR game that tracks pivotal events and processes leading to the discovery of radium and polonium. The format was selected for the Sheffield Doc|Fest Alternate Realities Market.
Consisting of 10 scenes (levels) and narrated by M Cure, the game begins with the young Manya Sklodovska in Russia-occupied Poland and ends with the Sorbonne-educated Marie trekking up the stairs to Eugene Demarcay’s spectroscope in Paris.
In each scene, users solve puzzles or perform tasks that relate to the history or science of the Curies.
By engaging with 19th century physics and chemistry apparatus, users slip right into Marie’s shoes.
Featured in image (right) is Marie and Pierre Curie’s “discovery shed,” an abandoned dissection room in a Parisian medical school.
A PEEK AT SCENES, INTERACTIONS AND APPARATUS
M Curie: “We had no money, no laboratory and no help in the conduct of this important and difficult task. It was like creating something out of nothing…
And yet it was in this miserable old shed that the best and happiest years of our life were spent, entirely consecrated to work. I sometimes passed the whole day stirring a mass in ebullition, with an iron rod nearly as big as myself. In the evening I was broken with fatigue.”
When German chemist Wilhelm Ostwald visited Curie’s lab, he described the place as being “a cross between a stable and a potato shed, and if I had not seen the worktable and items of chemical apparatus, I would have thought that I was been played a practical joke.”
The courtyard (image right) was the only place where Marie could break down pitchblende ore in vats of acid. She depended on ambient air to disperse the poisonous fumes of her task.
M Curie was fortunate to work underneath the lab of Eugene Demarçay (image right) , an expert in the field of spectroscopy.
By heating an element into a gas and then refracting the light it emitted through a prism, Demarçay could analyze the spectra or pattern of light. Several elements had been discovered via this method.
In December 19, 1898, Marie produced a substance whose radioactivity was 900 times greater than uranium. She raced up one flight of stairs to find Demarçay.
On that fateful day, he detected one unique spectral line. A notation in the Curies’ journal read: “Radium.”
While studying in Paris, Marie chose to live in the Latin Quarter close to the Sorbonne.
Given a budget of 15-20 francs per month, she would rent the attic of a middle-class house (image right).
Marie brought her furnishings from Poland, which included an iron folding bed, portable stove (alcohol heater), oil lamp, wooden table, chair, pitcher, stewpot and kettle.
A large brown trunk served as both a wardrobe and additional seating space.