A Stanford University researcher has combined
biology and video games to create a biotic gaming experience.
Riedel-Kruse, a physicist and assistant professor of bioengineering at Stanford
University, has developed a set of video games that utilize living cells to
imitate classic games like PacMan and Pinball.
The biotic games incorporate
living cells like paramecia, which are single-celled organisms, with video
games in order to allow everyday people to participate in experiments and learn
more about biological processes.
hope that by playing games involving biology of a scale too small to see with
the naked eye, people will realize how amazing these processes are and they'll
get curious and want to know more," said Riedel-Kruse. "The
applications we can envision so far are on the one hand educational, for people
to learn about biology, but we are also thinking perhaps we could have people
experiments as they play these games. That is something to figure
out for the future, what are good research problems which a person could really
be involved in and make substantial contributions. This approach is often
referred to as crowd-sourcing."
gaming experience allows the user to control the actions of living
microorganisms in real time by playing video games. There are a total of eight
games that fall into three categories, and the three categories are whether a
user is interacting with processes concerning single cells, colonies of single
cells, or molecules.
controls the living microorganism with a controller, like most video games. In
paramecia-related games, the paramecia is in a small fluid chamber in front of
a camera that sends live images to a video screen with a game board placed over
the image of the paramecia. The movements of the paramecia and the score are
kept by a microprocessor.
the games include PAC-mecium, which resembles PacMan in that paramecia eats
little balls, Biotic Pinball, Ciliaball, and POND PONG. In Pac-mecium, the polarity
of a mild electrical field is applied across the chamber of fluid, and is
controlled by the user's controller.
games, such as biotic pinball, work by injecting a chemical into the fluid
causing the paramecia to swim in different directions. PolymerRace, which is a
horse race-inspired game, consists of a user being linked to a PCR machine's
output, which is running different reactions at the same time. Users then bet
on which reactions will run the quickest.
are talking about microbiology with these games, very primitive life
forms," said Riedel-Kruse. "We do not use any higher-level organisms.
Since multiple test players raised the question of exactly where one should
draw this line, these games could
be a good tool to stimulate discussions in schools on bioethical issues."
step is to use research from different scientific fields to create new
educational video games.
would argue that modern biotechnology will influence our life at an
accelerating pace, most prominently in the personal biomedical choices that we
will be faced with more and more often," said Riedel-Kruse.
"Therefore everyone should have sufficient knowledge about the basics of
biomedicine and biotechnology. Biotic games could promote that."
This study was
published in Lab on a Chip.