Video games have the potential to be a great boon for society. The developers at Gearbox Software are well aware of this fact, and that seems to be the driving force behind Borderlands Science, a new interactive game within Borderlands 3. In Borderlands Science, players will "map the human gut microbiome to advance vital medical studies while earning in-game rewards." It's a bold addition to the game, and it sounds more like the kind of thing that would have been announced on April Fools' Day, than an actual addition to Borderlands 3. Still, it seems like an intriguing mode that could give players incentives for helping with important medical research.
Borderlands Science is the result of a partnership between Gearbox, 2K Games, McGill University, Massively Multiplayer Online Science, and The Microsetta Initiative at UC San Diego School of Medicine. Essentially, scientists struggle to map the trillions of microbes within the human body. It's a time-consuming process, yet these microbes could be associated with a number of conditions. By mapping them, scientists will have a better opportunity to study them, and possibly find cures for them. In Borderlands 3, this process will take the form of matching colored shapes, which have been encoded with the DNA of each gut microbe. Solving these puzzles will translate into real data that scientists can then study. In return, players earn in-game rewards for use in Borderlands 3.
In a statement, Gearbox Software co-founder Randy Pitchford elaborated on the upcoming addition.
“Borderlands Science is the vanguard of a new nexus between entertainment and health: an innovative game-within-the-game, complete with scores, progression and rewards, where your playtime actually generates tangible data that will be applied toward improving research, helping cure diseases, and contributing to the broader medical community.”
To put it mildly, it's a wild concept. It's impossible to know how successful Borderlands Science will prove, and whether or not the incentives will prove interesting enough for Borderlands 3 players to stick with it. That said, it's great to see a video game developer and publisher searching for a way to use a game's popularity for the benefit of society. While so many people still have a negative perception of the gaming community, this is a way that a developer can truly give back, in a meaningful way.
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