Ingmar Riedel-Kruse and his team at Stanford University have created several “biotic games” using biological processes (video below). The first type of game manipulates paramecium with electricity or chemicals, the second runs several polymerase chain reactions and times them like a horse race, and the third uses yeast to incorporate smell into a game (which could benefit blind gamers and also help diagnose disorders like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s where loss of olfactory senses is an early warning sign).
Some of the games they played included:
- Pac-mecium (Pac-Man) –users steer paramecia to collect virtual food while chased by a virtual zebra-ﬁsh larva
- Microbash (Breakout) — users steer paramecia to bounce a virtual ball to remove virtual blocks
- Enlightenment — users steer paramecia around trying to light up dots as the paramecia passes over them.
- Ciliaball — users steer paramecia to “kick” a virtual soccer ball into the goal.
- Pond Pong — users bounce a paramecia back and forth by dropping a chemical that repels the paramecia.
For the games steered with the remote control, set-up takes about five minutes for over an hour of play, and the chips are reusable after being cleaned. And although the paper goes on about the potential benefits of “biotic games”, let’s be honest. These intrepid geniuses found a way to play Pac-Man in the lab and get published for it. Bravo, scientists, for giving hope to all us lazy gamers who would incorporate Pac-Man into our jobs if we could get away with it. I got in trouble last time I tried to mix Pac-Man with my other job. They kept telling me “the patients need those pills” and “you’re going to overdose” and “why did you paint yourself yellow with a highlighter?” Bunch of damn buzzkills.