Biotechnology Games Let You Play With Living Creatures

Video game developers constantly strive to create the most lifelike games imaginable. Stanford physicist Ingmar Riedel-Kruse took a shortcut, and simply put living creatures in his games. Gaming meets biotechnology in biotic games.

Simple single-celled organisms - paramecium, in this case - wiggle their cilium about a small fluid chamber. A camera transmits images from this chamber onto a computer screen, where rudimentary graphics are superimposed over the image. Using a standard game controller, the player controls various stimuli, which in turn control the paramecium. In one case the stimulus is a light electrical current. In another, it's a chemical scent pumped into the fluid box.

It's really quite ingenious. See for yourself.


Riedel-Kruse and his team have crafted eight different playable games that utilize molecules, single cells, or colonies of cells. Most of the designs are inspired by classic video games.

"We tried to mimic some classic video games," he said. For example, one game in which players guide paramecia to "gobble up" little balls, a la PacMan, was christened PAC-mecium. Then there is Biotic Pinball, POND PONG and Ciliaball. The latter game is named for the tiny hairs, called cilia, that paramecia use in a flipper-like fashion to swim around – and in the game enables kicking a virtual soccer ball.

The hope here is that players will interact with the basic biological processes behind the games and become in the study of biology and biotechnology.

"We would argue that modern biotechnology will influence our life at an accelerating pace, most prominently in the personal biomedical choices that we will be faced with more and more often," Riedel-Kruse said. "Therefore everyone should have sufficient knowledge about the basics of biomedicine and biotechnology. Biotic games could promote that."

And don't worry about the whole torturing living creatures thing. They're single-celled. They don't have any feelings.

We have to build to that.

Stanford researcher uses living cells to create 'biotic' video games [Stanford University News]