23 April 2013

Science and games - inspiring one another

Sanger Institute researchers work with teams to develop games based around genetics and genomics

Dead Shark Triplepunch from Blekinge Institute of Technology in Sweden, winners of the competition.

Dead Shark Triplepunch from Blekinge Institute of Technology in Sweden, winners of the competition. [Epic Games]


Four Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute researchers have crossed into unknown territory to share their knowledge of genetics and genomics with the world of computer game development and design. Each of the researchers passed on their scientific wisdom and mentored a team in this year's Make Something Unreal Live contest, the UK and European student game development competition run by Epic Games, Inc.

The Wellcome Trust supported this year's competition, setting a genetics and genomics theme for the student developers. The four finalist teams were selected from a shortlist of twelve; each was then given mentors - a UK game development studio and a Sanger Institute researcher. Input and feedback from the science mentors has given the teams a unique insight into how their games could be enhanced from a science perspective, in a way that is both relevant and fun.

Last week at the Gadget Show Live, a panel of judges announced that Dead Shark Triplepunch from Blekinge Institute of Technology in Sweden were winners of the competition and they were awarded a commercial Unreal Engine 4 licence. Their game 'Epigenesis' is a fast-paced ball game played across rooftops with gravity and supportive plants that spread across the playfield.

Dr Josh Randall, from the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute and science mentor to Dead Shark Triplepunch, says, "Developing a game involves a lot of detailed work, research and expertise, not unlike science. It has been fascinating to see how Epigenesis, which draws on epigenetics, an area of science that looks at how expression of genes can be regulated, has evolved as the competition progressed. It's been a pleasure to mentor such a talented team; they have a bright future ahead of them."

" Make Something Unreal Live 2013 has been a wonderful experience for our scientists and has brought genomics to a new, unusual and unexplored platform "

Dr Julia Willingale-Theune

This is just one of the many projects that the Sanger Institute's Public Engagement team are involved with. The team bring genomics to different platforms and audiences, engaging with those who may have never expressed an interest in science. They engage with those in art, media and education to create projects such as this, to build excitement and wonder around science.

"Make Something Unreal Live 2013 has been a wonderful experience for our scientists and has brought genomics to a new, unusual and unexplored platform," says Dr Julia Willingale-Theune, Public Engagement Manager at the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute. "We hope that this and other similar projects will inspire people to think differently about genomics and encourage them to explore these ideas in different and exciting ways."

The Wellcome Trust's involvement in the competition builds on its ambition to bring science into the culture of games and support the next generation of developers.

Iain Dodgeon, Acting Broadcast and Games Manager at the Wellcome Trust and a member of the judging panel, says "This has been an exciting initiative to be involved with, and we're delighted it has uncovered fresh talent in the games industry. Dead Shark Triplepunch has shown how it's possible to draw creative inspiration from science, while never losing sight of the fact that they are producing a game that sets out to entertain."

Notes to Editors

Epic Games, Inc

Established in 1991, Epic Games, Inc. develops cutting-edge games and cross-platform game engine technology. The company is responsible for the bestselling "Unreal" series of games, the blockbuster "Gears of War" franchise and the groundbreaking "Infinity Blade" line of mobile games. Epic's award-winning Unreal Engine technology has won dozens of awards and is available for licensing. Epic is continually recruiting top talent for its studios located in North Carolina, Washington, Utah, Poland, Korea and Japan.


Unreal Engine

Developed by Epic Games, the award-winning Unreal Engine is known for its cutting-edge graphics technology, world-class toolset and scalability across PC, console and mobile platforms. Unreal Engine 3 (UE3) is designed to accelerate developers' productivity for creating high-quality games, applications, training simulations, visualizations, digital films and animated entertainment. Powering hundreds of games and integrated with two dozen leading middleware technologies, UE3 holds more than 20 technology awards, including eight Game Developer Front Line Awards and five Develop Industry Excellence Awards. The Unreal Engine also owns a seat in the Front Line Awards Hall of Fame. Unreal Engine 4 (UE4), winner of multiple Best of E3 2012 awards, offers unprecedented graphical capabilities and workflow improvements that provide unparalleled accessibility for developers building the next generation of games and applications.


The Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute

The Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute is one of the world's leading genome centres. Through its ability to conduct research at scale, it is able to engage in bold and long-term exploratory projects that are designed to influence and empower medical science globally. Institute research findings, generated through its own research programmes and through its leading role in international consortia, are being used to develop new diagnostics and treatments for human disease.


The Wellcome Trust

The Wellcome Trust is a global charitable foundation dedicated to achieving extraordinary improvements in human and animal health. We support the brightest minds in biomedical research and the medical humanities. Our breadth of support includes public engagement, education and the application of research to improve health. We are independent of both political and commercial interests.


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