Genetics 3 min read

Mobile Gamers Can Now Help Scientists Analyze Cancer DNA Data

By John Lugo featured image Play to Cure: Genes in Space is a mobile game created by Cancer Research UK that allows users to help scientists analyze genetic data.

Anyone with a smartphone can now help scientists analyze genetic data, which can then be used to develop new treatments for cancer.

Created by Cancer Research UK with help from Dundee Agency and game developers at Guerilla Tea, Play to Cure: Genes in Space is available for download from Google Play and the Apple App Store. The gaming concept is simple shooting and mapping that doesn’t require any background knowledge of genetics, which makes it easy for anyone to pick up and play.

The idea behind it, however, is that as a player creates a route and navigates through space, his strategy is sent back to scientists at Cancer Research UK for further analysis. In one month, Play to Cure users have analyzed genetic data that would have taken scientists six months to analyze manually.

The game starts off with a background story that explains in the year 2824, the player is a recruit for Bifrost Industries, a company in the field of collecting genetic data, known as “Element Alpha” in the game.

To start off each mission, a map shows locations of Element Alpha, with the player’s job being to create a route by pinpointing the most dense areas on the map, which contains a heavy amount of the substance. What users are actually doing is plotting points on genetic data that will be reviewed by scientists.

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Once the route is mapped, the user will then take control of the spaceship and set out to collect Element Alpha. The markers of dense areas become rings that the ship must fly through, and the markers are connected by a line to help guide the way. Players have the option to either tilt the phone left and right to move the ship, or tap on screen where to move.

There are asteroids along the way, which is where shooting abilities come in. In order to avoid spaceship damage, one must either shoot or avoid the asteroids. Failure to do so can break the ship down and lose all Element Alpha in possession at the time.

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Before each mission begins, there is a screen that shows the player’s ranking, amount of credits, spaceship, and available upgrades. The more Element Alpha collected and asteroids destroyed, the more credits that are gained. Credits can be exchanged for leveling up, and the level dictates which spaceship upgrades one can get.

Ranking starts at level 1 as a recruit and finishes at level 50 as a galactic legend, and along the way the spaceship can be improved via weapons, engine, shield, intakes, fins, and paint. The market for credits fluctuates on a daily basis, so one can hold off turning in credits until the market value rises.

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The primary interest for users downloading this game will most likely be to help a good cause, and it’s somewhat surreal knowing that while it seems like a basic shooting and mapping game, players are actually helping scientists improve cancer treatment. Users will definitely want to play this game more knowing that with every different move made in the game, it could potentially lead to life-saving treatments.

Not only does the science behind the game make it worth playing, but players will also find that Cancer Research UK did a great job with making the game come to life. It won’t make a run as a top-rated game for mobile users, but it’s simple enough to keep light gamers interested and complex enough to make players want to continue.