New Video Games Played With Living Organisms (Video)

January 30, 2011 Updated: September 29, 2015

[youtube]lPMhCTlHlC0[/youtube] The Bold New World of Biotic GamesA new discovery could make “Tron”-like battle grids a reality for unwitting microorganisms, with the unveiling of “biotic games” in the journal Lab on a Chip, published by the Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC).

Games include remakes of classics like “Pac-Man” and “Pong,” only they’re played with living, swimming microorganisms, complete with a hand-held controller.

Developing the games borders on scientific research. “The details of biological systems are not completely understood, hence the realism is limited by the game designers knowledge,” states the research paper.

“Since game play always explores the rules and laws of the world that the game is set in, biology teaching might be best set within a truthful biological world, with the gaming situation providing a natural motivation for exploration,” the paper states.

It adds that the games may “lead to cross-fertilization between both disciplines thereby helping to improve the creation of virtual worlds as well as understanding how biological systems behave and function.”

Videos of the games published on the RSC website show combinations of glowing, digital images, with wiggling lifeforms bouncing around a screen. One game, “Ciliaball” is played on a small soccer field, where microorganisms can “kick” the animated ball into each other’s goals.

Another game, “Microbash” plays like the classic game, “Breakaway,” and challenges players to destroy a wall of blocks with a bouncing ball. The microorganisms act like tiny paddles that are used to hit the animated ball into a digital wall.

Most of the games are played with paramecia—oval-shaped, single-celled organisms—that follow electrical fields. The game arena is a tiny, liquid-filled chamber lined with electrodes, and the action is captured with a webcam hanging over it. Users can watch the game on a conventional computer.

“The human player controls a swarm of these paramecia by applying electric fields along two axes via a hand-held device reminiscent of a conventional video game controller,” the paper states.

A handful of biotic games currently exist, and others are in development. “More than five decades of video game history provide a base for extrapolation,” states the paper.

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