The gamification of science.
The Wellcome Trust has launched an initiative — called Gamify Your PhD — to bring together researchers with developers in order to create games that explore the latest developments in biomedicine.
Researchers are invited to send their ideas about how their PhD research could be illustrated through a game. In order to inspire them, Mobile Pie (with the advice of Wired.co.uk editor Nate Lanxon) has created an interactive embeddable guide to basic gaming mechanics, featuring 16-bit minigames. These include a Darwin-inspired survival-of-the-fittest pigeon game, a Mendel genetics puzzle game, a game based on Asch’s work on conformity and a Newton-targeting apple physics game.
Meanwhile, teams of three or four game developers are invited to apply to join a game-hack in London in September in order to bring the researchers’ ideas to life. Each team must have all the necessary skills to create a prototype game in two days — design, code, art and audio — plus their own equipment. The best team will receive funding to develop their idea into a releasable game.
The initiative is part of Wellcome’s commitment to gaming as a medium for bringing biomedical science stories to life, which started with a series of commissions and grants of up to £200,000. The Wellcome Collection — the Wellcome Trust’s exhibition space — already commissions games that can bring its exhibitions to life. They specifically try to avoid the “chocolate-coated broccoli” approach, where attempts are made to make a boring subject more interesting by turning it into a game.
One such commissioned game is Axon, which accompanied the Brains: The Mind as Matter exhibition. This was developed through a collaboration between neuroscientists and game developer Preloaded. The game challenges players to grow their neuron as long as possible; climbing through brain tissue, out-competing rival neurons and creating as many connections to distant regions of the brain as they can.