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Purpose: The main purpose of our Human Practice team this year was education. Education is so important because it gives people the power to make better decisions. Nowadays there are a growing number of people that whenever the word “GMO” is mentioned, anything said after is commonly thought of as wrong, unnatural, and dangerous. We wanted to help fix this bias by presenting synthetic biology in a new way that would inform people while giving them some kind of enjoyment. We wanted to create something that would give people a perspective on GMO’s that would be completely new to them. Our idea was to create a video game that introduced people to the ideas and potential behind synthetic biology.

Audience: We specifically designed the game to give something to everyone no matter how much knowledge of synthetic biology they have. Whether it is someone with no biology knowledge learning all about synthetic biology techniques and terms, or a seasoned veteran synthetic biologist looking to play a mobile game while waiting for a gel to run.

Game: In the game you’re set as a character named Plasmid Paul. You have just been informed that there has been a zombie outbreak. A group of scientists have decided to use synthetic biology to find a cure. As the character, you explore different levels that are set in the lab and fight off enemies while learning about each process and different synthetic biology ideas. The levels are designed to be fun, challenging, and informative.

Conclusion: During the beta test of our game we had each player fill out a before and after survey to learn about their experience with the game. We asked questions about general synthetic biology ideas and about what they got out of the game.
Results from survey
- a 32% increase in knowledge of what a protein is.
- a 22% increase in knowledge of what a plasmid is.
- a 31% increase in knowledge of what synthetic biology is.
- a 13% increase in knowledge of how to cure diabetes using synthetic biology.
- a 2% increase in knowledge of how genes are manipulated.
- a 10% increase on thoughts of whether synthetic biology is safe.
- before the game, 3% of the players thought synthetic biology was more harmful than helpful to society, while after the game 0% of the players thought it was more harmful.
- 83% said they enjoyed playing the game.
- 83% said they learned from the game.
- 66% said the game sparked interest in synthetic biology.
From our results we can clearly see that the game had a positive effect on the education of the people who played the game. The results show that the game sparked interest in synthetic biology and the players truly learned something from playing. The general knowledge of synthetic biology significantly increased, the thoughts about synthetic biology safety increased, but more importantly their thoughts on the impacts that synthetic biology has on society were changed.

Other Outreach: In addition to the game, we collaborated with an on campus organization called WISE (Women in Science and Engineering). We designed experiments for Junior High girls to participate in experiments meant to introduce synthetic biology. The experiments included Strawberry DNA extraction, their own Saliva DNA extraction, running a gel, and interpreting the bands on the gel to solve a celebrity mystery. The girls were amazed by the experiments and seemed very excited about the ideas of synthetic biology.

Outreach within the lab: This summer we again hosted two 10th graders: Ocean and Ivor, Huang. During their stay here they helped out with lab work and worked one on one with the team. They were a big help with preparing reagents for the lab and helping in many ways. Also one of our team members is an undergraduate student from the University of Toledo, Ohio. This summer he helped out with lab work as well as the video game.

Future Work: We plan on fine-tuning the game from feedback given to us after its release. Once we have the game polished and ready we will release it to mobile devices through the App store so it is easily accessible to the public from almost anywhere. Also like the year before, we plan on continuing our collaboration with WISE in following years.

The Adventures of Plasmid Paul:

Download unity web player here: You need unity web player to play the game! iOS and Android versions will be released after the beta along with the soundtrack.

Fill out this survey before playing the game: Before Survey

Fill out this survey after playing the game: After Survey

This game is just starting its beta phase. If you can't beat a level, you can go to the main menu and select any of the levels to play at any time. Please at least read the beginning text of each level if you can't beat them all. We are aware of the many bugs and gameplay optimization that needs to be done, in particular the camera. We will be fixing it as soon as we can.

Use A and D keys or left and right arrow keys to move left/right and space bar to jump. Thanks for playing!

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