Game Lab: 48 hr stem cell game jam

Game lab overview

Last weekend, programmers, artists and games developers were invited to the Cambridge Stem Cell Institute for a 48hr game jam. The ‘Game Lab’ competitors were offered a crash course in stem cell biology, including a hands-on tour of the laboratories. They then had 48 hours to create a new computer game on the theme ‘Destiny & Decisions’ in stem cell research.

During the two days of coding and coffee, the teams were supported by researchers from Professor Austin Smith’s lab group. They worked closely with developers to ensure that the games were both fun and scientifically accurate.

“It has been really exciting to work with teams of creative people and to think about fun new ways to present our research. I am so impressed with all of the ideas and games that the teams managed to produce in such a short space of time!” – Tuzer Kalkan, Post-doctoral researcher in the Smith lab.

Game lab overview two

On Sunday evening we had five teams ready to present their concepts and prototypes to a panel of expert judges, including Institute Director, Prof. Smith. Team ‘Basal Media’ were commended for incorporating amusing aspects of life as a researcher into their lab management game, ‘Petri-Dash’, but first place was awarded to Jim, Jose, Chris and Alex for their potentially addictive pin-ball differentiation game. Beautiful graphics and simple game-play allow players to learn how stem cells become specialised adult cells via a complex series of irreversible decisions. 

“As an animator, it was really fun to see the personalities behind stem cell research, which is initially a daunting subject for a complete outsider. The scientists would light up whenever they talked about what they do. We are thrilled that Prof. Smith and the rest of the judging panel liked our game and hope we can turn it into more than just a prototype!” – Jim James, competitor

The Institute plans to collaborate with the winning team to develop the idea into a full game that can be used at various outreach events, including the Cambridge Science Festival. 

Guest Post by Philippa Russell