Human Practices

Synbio Card Game

Game of Genes

In this year we wanted to present Synthetic Biology to general public so they would understand a little bit better the power this field of science has to remodel society using new technologies. However we did not want to do this in a traditional way, such as lectures and courses, but in a way that a public with different backgrounds would be able to comprehend and that would allow people that may not be very interested in science to participate and have a lot fun while doing it. The solution we came up was developing “Game of Genes”.

Game of Genes
Figure 1: one card of each type.

In this game we wanted to roleplay some aspects present in the daily lives of researchers in synthetic biology and other fields such as molecular biology. So the players will represent a scientist who will have to work to create a genetic circuit while worrying with problems common to a laboratory, such as cultivating your bacterias colonies.

We went to look for inspiration in successful games that were dynamic, fun, competitive but also that would allow players to be creative. Some games that inspired us were War®, Bohnanza®, Munchkin® and Magic - The Dual of the Planers Walkers®.

Figure 2: sample of researcher card.

But in what consists our game? In the beginning of the game, each player will choose to roleplay a researcher from a different country and university that works with a microorganism who wants to genetically manipulate it to reach some goal.

These goals are represented by the objective cards. Every player receives randomly and objective card and do not present to the others. His goal in the game is to assembly the genetic circuit that is in the card. The circuits were inspired by some project presented in previous iGEM competitions.

Figure 3: sample of objective card.

Figure 4: sample of biobrick card.

To assembly the circuit the players will use the biobrick cards that they drawn or exchange between other players during the game.

But assembling a circuit is not as easy as it may seems. To represent this difficulty we created “metabolism points” which every player will receive in the beginning and that will have to administrate. You can lose some points by assembling a biobrick and gain when you cultivate your microorganism. However unexpected events can happen. Environmental factors such as pH, temperature and radiation can change or human failures made by researchers or technicians can happen and all of these will affect your microorganism, so you will lose metabolism points. These points represent your modified microorganisms and when it goes to zero they die.

Figure 5: sample of random event card.

Figure 6: sample of dynamic card.

To stimulate interaction between players and also represent some aspects of academic life that goes beyond the lab we created the dynamic cards. For example, these cards may represent delay of reagent delivery, a visit from a foregoing professor or even people who are protesting against genetic manipulation in your lab.

The game ends when the first player finish to assembly the genetic circuit on the objective card.

More important than only creating a game, since the beginning of its creation we were concerned of how it would be received by the public in general, how it could be used in a classroom as a tool for the teaching of synthetic biology and molecular biology and how to make an activity to be fun but also able to bring interesting information to the player.

While the game was being created, we did frequent tests with players with different backgrounds. The first player was the one that had already had a first contact with synthetic biology. So, the first official presentation of Game of Genes was done in the First National Encounter of iGem Brazilian Teams or as we called it “Jamboré”.

Figure 7: people from the public and from other Brazilian iGEM teams playing Game of Genes. See more about the event in the Collaborations section.

Knowing how people in general that do not necessarily know what synthetic biology is would face the game was something that we considered very relevant, as a game must be fun, dynamic and challenging. In this way, we took our game to clubs where professional players were able to give their opinions of what we could do to make the game more attractive.

Figure 8: playing Game of Genes on Ludus.

Still focused in our main goal that was allowing teachers to use the game in high school classrooms, we took it to a group from University of São Paulo (USP) that studies teaching techniques in biology. During this meeting we could receive the opinion of professionals that deal daily with different students of how the make the transposition of a complex topic such as synthetic biology to the environment of young.

Figure 9: showing the game to the teachers.

The most crucial moment was when we took it to a real high school classroom with students between 16 and 17 years old. We did a small presentation about synthetic biology to show them new ideas, basic concepts and how this area of science that many of them have never heard of can be actually related to their routine.

While the students played our game, we could see how excited they were in participating. They were able to connect theoretical topics seen only in classroom using a ludic and amusement activity. Besides, they were able to learn new concepts and understand a little bit better what a are the main ideas behind synthetic biology.

Figure 10: Presenting synthetic biology to the students. | Playing the game with them.

Public Opinion | Specialists Opinion | Synbio Card Game | Online Lectures | Events

This project is part of
iGEM 2013



2013, USP-Brazil Team | | |