“Genes in Space” game donates to and supports cancer research

Niklas Schubert

Screenshot from “Genes in Space”

The UK Cancer Research Society released its first game app called “Genes in Space.”

The app allows players to help find a possible cure for cancer.

This concept is based on the citizen science hub Zooniverse from which the scientific data is fetched.

Players first need to create a Zooniverse account, which can be done by following the directions the app provides.

The main point of the game is to fly a spaceship and collect a substance the creators called Element Alpha.

To harvest Element Alpha, the player first has to map a route to collect the highest possible amount of this substance.

The process by which players map their route parallels the way scientists analyze genetic data.

The areas where players can find Element Alpha are real gene mappings that scientists are looking to classify using the genes’ densities.

This task is simple enough that anyone can do it, but hard enough so that a computer cannot accomplish the task by itself. Therefore, all gene mappings are classified by hand.

A team of citizen scientists organized “Genes in Space” on a voluntary basis. Many people joined by either organizing or playing the game.

With more people analyzing the same data, scientists are hoping to cultivate a more accurate understanding of the genes described.

In this case, the path to finding Element Alpha helps analyze those genes.

The next step in the game is the fun part. After having mapped the route, the test of fine motor-skills begins.

Players have to steer their spaceships through the waypoints set during the mapping stage.

The objective is to shoot or avoid asteroids on the way.

Players can exchange their harvested Element Alpha for a variety of ship upgrades, one of the many motivators for completing new levels.

From a gaming point of view, this app isn’t the most exciting game ever. And it sometimes crashes or lags during game play.

But developers have been working to fix bugs and to introduce new updates since the game’s release

Playing the game itself is entertaining. But more importantly, it helps contribute to scientific research that can help find a possible cure for cancer.

This objective makes playing the game worthwhile.

The app is available for iOS and android devices through the Apple App Store and Google Play Store.

To find out more about citizen science check out zooniverse.org.