On February 4th, a new game for mobile phones was released by Cancer Research UK. The name of the game is Play to Cure: Genes in Space and the release represents a giant leap in both gaming and scientific research. Together with the Helping Hands charitable division of The Rational Group, parent company of famed online gaming portal PokerStars, the game moved from being just an interesting concept into an actual reality.
Almost a year in the making, the idea for Genes in Space was first hatched back in March of 2013. Two employees from The Rational Group were invited to work together with scientists and others from Google, Facebook, and Amazon to build the basic framework of the game. The team was able to construct a process that took a standard research task and turn it into something fun and entertaining for millions of global players.
Genes in Space assists cancer research by using human players to spot gene patterns, one of the few tasks that is done better by humans than their computer counterparts. By navigating a futuristic ship through space, the player is essentially collecting data that is passed on to important research centres. These centres, in turn, use the data to advance cancer research and in the development of treatments to help existing cancer victims as well as prevention.
To celebrate the momentous occasion on the fitting World Cancer Day, members of both The Rational Group and Cancer Research UK were on hand to ring in the announcement of the game being launched. Television personality Jeff Brazier and Dave Vitty from BBC Radio One were also in attendance to give the game a try and voice their support of the innovative project. Eugene Katchalov, a member of Team PokerStars Pro was especially vocal and amazed at the possibility that playing a game could add to the fight against cancer.
The initial release of Play to Cure: Genes in Space came in the form of an app for both Android and Apple mobile phones. Available as a free download from their respective stores, the game was an instant success as countless people from all walks of life decided to check out the game and, by doing so, lend a much-needed hand to those working on a cure for cancer. The sheer volume of data collected through the gameplay will translate to huge strides in research previously thought impossible by cancer scientists.
Sue Hammett, Head of Corporate Giving for The Rational Group, had this to say about the project:
“As a technology company, we are very proud to see that our highly skilled workforce can have a real positive social impact through this exciting project. We are all so excited about the game – it’s a unique way to help Cancer Research UK with their amazing work and great fun at the same time.”