Cancer Research UK

The cancer charity has developed a smartphone game app that has both fun and practical uses

Cancer Research UK's Play to Cure: Genes in Space game
Cancer Research UK's Play to Cure: Genes in Space game

What is it?

The health charity has launched Play to Cure: Genes in Space, a new smartphone app that allows people to play an interactive spaceship game while simultaneously helping scientists unravel the reams of gene data that their research generates.

How does it work?

Players must steer a spaceship through an intergalactic assault course to collect pieces of a valuable material called Element Alpha. While they are playing, the app tracks their movements, which correspond to an analysis of variations in gene data. This information is then fed back to CRUK scientists. Each section of gene data is tracked by several players to make sure it is accurate. Scientists then use this to work out which genes are faulty in cancer patients and develop new drugs to target them.

Where did the idea come from?

The initial idea for the game came at the charity’s GameJam weekend in March 2013. This brought together the charity’s scientists with developers from Facebook, Amazon and Google as well as gamers and designers; the result was 12 prototypes for a data-analysis game. CRUK then hired the Glasgow-based games and software development agency Guerilla Tea to build the final product.

You can watch a YouTube video about how the game was developed here

Where can it be downloaded?

Anyone with an apple or android smartphone can download the app here.

Third Sector verdict

A clever campaign that has a practical purpose while also raising awareness of the charity’s research work – and fun for people to play.

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