Gamers Help Analyze Microbiome Data: Microbial Minutes

June 3, 2024

Scientists integrated a mini game into a popular mass-market video game; by solving puzzles, players help analyze microbiome sequencing data.

What's Hot in the Microbial Sciences?

Are video games the future of microbiome analyses? Some scientists think so. Researchers integrated a mini game into the commercially successful video game, Borderlands 3. In the mini game, known as Borderlands Science, players solve puzzles to help analyze sequencing data of gut bacteria. Since its release, 4 million players have solved 135 million puzzles in Borderlands Science. Scientists use these gamer-generated solutions to optimize sequencing analysis methods and, ultimately, advance understanding of the human gut microbiome. Key take-aways and resources used in this Microbial Minutes are listed below.

Key Take-Aways

  • Researchers use 16S rRNA sequencing to analyze bacterial communities. Comparing sequences from different bacteria can reveal evolutionary relationships between them. 
  • Analyzing sequencing data involves aligning all the sequences in a data set to identify similarities and differences between them. Computers aren’t great at this task—but humans are. 
  • Scientists integrated a mini game into a popular mass-market video game; by playing the game, players collectively align thousands of 16S rRNA sequences from gut bacteria. Researchers learn from how players align sequences, which can be used to improve computational alignments.  
  • Video games could be a key way of harnessing the brainpower of many people to answer questions and solve important scientific problems.


Featured Study

Additional Sources

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Author: Madeline Barron, Ph.D.

Madeline Barron, Ph.D.
Madeline Barron, Ph.D. is the Science Communications Specialist at ASM. She obtained her Ph.D. from the University of Michigan in the Department of Microbiology and Immunology.