You know what Borderlands 3 was missing? A minigame that lets you sort through DNA samples from human poop. If that doesn’t sound particularly appealing, you should know that it’s all for a good real-life cause. Borderlands Science is a new arcade game you can find in-game, and it’s created by scientists who need your help with their research into all the microbes hanging out in your gut – and playing it rewards you with some brand new skins and heads.
An actual scientist will explain far this better than I ever could, so here’s one (who you might recognise from The Big Bang Theory) talking about what Borderlands Science is all about:
“The human gut is linked to numerous diseases and conditions, including diabetes, depression, autism, anxiety, obesity and more,” claims The Microsetta Initiative. “By mapping these microbes, the hope is that scientists will be able to better understand these ecosystems, which may help guide future research into novel treatments and interventions.”
What it all boils down to is that computers are rubbish at organising information about DNA, and in their research computers have made loads of errors that scientists need you to sort through. The game doesn’t have you looking at loads of raw data though (that wouldn’t be fun at all), what you’ll have to do is match rows of colourful tiles together, which represent strands of DNA. All this goes towards helping build a better algorithm, so in the future computers can do this stuff better by themselves.
There’s an incentive to play this minigame, too. If you have a go at it and reach a target score for a level you’ll be rewarded with in-game currency to spend on unique new skins, heads, and boosters.
This is part of research being conducted by McGill University, Massively Multiplayer Online Science, and The Microsetta Initiative, and if you want to find out more about what they’re doing with all this data, check out the post on the Borderlands website.
Borderlands Science isn’t the first time a game has been used to help out real-life research. A few years ago Eve Online launched Project Discovery, an in-game image analysis minigame of examining and classifying pictures of cells.