Flash game developer Team Cooper has partnered with The Sainsbury Laboratory to create a new Facebook game with a greater purpose than just having fun. The game is called Fraxinus, and it uses Facebook gamers to crowdsource scientific research for the Open Ash Die Back project.
The project looks to examine and even stop a deadly Chalara fungus that is killing a large amount of ash trees in the UK, with players being challenged to manipulate and match genetic data sets taken directly from the trees in the real world. As players match DNA sequences with static images at the top of the screen (represented by colored leaves), they’ll earn points and will be able to collect those sequences for their own collections, but players that earn more points can steal those sequences for themselves.
As players continue to steal patterns, they’ll be creating more accurate data for the scientists at the Sainsbury Laboratory at the same time.
“Each play of the game will contribute a small but useful analysis,” said Dr Dan MacLean from The Sainsbury Laboratory. “The more people who play it, the more accurate the results will be for us and the quicker we can generate the information needed to help our woodlands recover from the current epidemic.”
Fraxinus, the Latin name of the genus of ash tree, is easy to pick up for newcomers, but is also intellectually challenging, as players may need to delete or move groups of leaves to get closer to a match. Progress can be saved mid-level and resumed at a later time, and players can compare their scores on leaderboards against friends and strangers alike.