Play to Cure: Genes in Space, created by Guerilla Tea in conjunction with Cancer Research UK, tasks players with harvesting a mysterious chemical known as element alpha from deep space, trading it in for credits and progressing the ranks of fictional firm, Bitforst Industries.
But in a first which highlights how a game’s vast audience can aid good causes, the gameplay of the space-based shoot-em-up actually sees players analysing the genetic data of 2,000 breast cancer patients from three hospitals in the UK and two in Canada.
Each section of gene data will be tracked by several different players to enhance accuracy. The charity hopes that players from around the world will help highlight variations in gene data by playing the game. Scientists will be able to use the data to work out which genes are faulty in cancer patients.
In the five days after its release, more than 75,000 people downloaded the game from the App Store and Google Play.
Hannah Keartland, head of the charity’s citizen science project, explained: “Every single second gamers spend playing our smartphone game directly helps our work to beat cancer sooner. Our scientists’ research produces colossal amounts of data, some of which can only be analysed by the human eye – a process which can take years.
“We urge people to give two minutes of their time wherever and whenever they can – whether they’re on their daily commute or in the hairdressers having a blow dry. Together, our free moments will help bring forward the day when all cancers are cured.”