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The ideas

On the afternoon of 4 September 2012, the participants of the Gamify Your PhD project presented their hard work back to an audience of their fellow participants, Wellcome Trust staff and a few games industry journalists and a panel of experts. Read a reflection on the event (Wellcome Trust blog).

The review panel was made up of Nate Lanxon, Site Editor of Wired.co.uk; Bennett Foddy, Scientist and Games Designer; Charlie Hasdell, Principal Designer for SingStar, Sony Computer Entertainment Europe; and Danny Altmann, Head of Pathogens, Immunology and Population Health at the Wellcome Trust.

Winner

Dysbiosis
By Margherita Coccia with Clockwork Cuckoo and Force of Habit

We have evolved different mechanisms in our intestine to keep harmful invading microbes at bay, while fostering our beneficial bacteria. An imbalance in these mechanisms can put us at risk of chronic conditions, such as inflammatory bowel disease, or increase the chance of dangerous infection. In ‘Dysbiosis’ the player controls a collection of cells that form part of the intestinal wall, shooting harmful oncoming bacteria whilst allowing through the healthy bacteria. Bonuses allow the player to form a defensive mucus shield which can be further reinforced through contact with beneficial bacteria. Hits from pathological bacteria can eventually breach the wall, ending the game.

1st runner up

Monsieur Baguette presents... RNA transcription of Saccharomyces Cerevisiae (video clip - game available soon)
By Jane Elizabeth Anne Reid with Opposable Games

RNA Polymerase II is the key enzyme responsible for the transcription of RNA in yeast cells, in a process that requires phosphorylation of serines and tyrosines in a specific sequence. The team decided to put together a pattern-matching game based around these chemical reactions and add a little humour - resulting in ‘Monsieur Baguette presents... RNA transcription of Saccharomyces Cerevisiae’.

2nd runner up

Simalaria
By Thomas Forth with Mobile Pie

Flux-balance analysis of the metabolic reactions in malaria is a powerful tool for predicting the parasite’s growth-rate in different conditions and in response to different drugs. ‘Simalaria’ is a resource-management puzzle game that accurately reduces a metabolic network with nearly 1000 connections to one with just five important junctions that the user controls. Can you make the right decisions to create enough offspring and survive at the end of the parasite’s 48 hour life cycle or will you run out of energy and be overwhelmed by the body’s immune system?

Finalists (in no particular order)

Campy Command
By John J Kendall with Remode

‘Campy Command’ follows Campy (the pathogenic bacterium Campylobacter jejuni) as it travels from its initial host (a chicken) into the aerobic environment (in this case a puddle) and onwards to infect a human host. The game starts out in a rhythm-action style as Campy collects amino acids to convert into energy. The second stage centres on protecting crucial metabolic enzymes from damage by avoiding damaging molecules of O2 and collecting protective hemerythrin proteins. The third stage focuses on the human immune response to infection as Campy races through the intestinal tract avoiding hydrogen peroxide, antibodies, macrophages and any other threats created by the host to stop it.

Ulysses Contract
By Joanne Gordon with Locked Door Puzzle

A survivor game emphasising a relational conception of the will in addiction recovery, ‘Ulysses Contract’ comprises a complex interplay of internal and external factors following the environment and people in an addict’s life. The game has three levels of increasing difficulty, representing natural recovery, treated recovery and the revolving-door phenomenon. In the third level the player has the option of choosing a Ulysses contract, which boosts the will reserve, making it easier for the player to reach the end of the game.

Lab Hero: Womb for improvement
By Gemma Sharp with Thought Den

In a rhythm-based parody of ‘Guitar Hero’, players must guide their uterus samples through the lab and extract as much high-quality RNA as possible. Each phase of the scientific process is performed by a well-timed key press, and scores are awarded for the number and quality of samples processed. The game is inspired by the individually mundane actions performed in a lab that collectively amount to the proper rigour of scientific method.

Thanks to all who participated and to the Wellcome Trust staff for making the event such a success. The Wellcome Trust will be supporting additional development on the game the review panel voted as their favourite. Given the high standard of all the games, the rest of the teams have been encouraged to apply for a grant to continue development.

Find out more about the genesis of the project and the hack days

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