Stanford University bioengineer Ingmar Riedel-Kruse and his colleagues are developing “biotic games” where players control paramecia and other living microorganisms. The PacMan-like video games are the first in which a player’s actions influence the behavior of living microorganisms while the game is being played.
Here we propose the concept of ‘biotic games’, i.e., games that operate on biological processes. Utilizing a variety of biological processes we designed and tested a collection of games: ‘Enlightenment’, ‘Ciliaball’, ‘PAC-mecium’, ‘Microbash’, ‘Biotic Pinball’, ‘POND PONG’, ‘PolymerRace’, and ‘The Prisoner’s Smellemma’. We found that biotic games exhibit unique features compared to existing game modalities, such as utilizing biological noise, providing a real-life experience rather than virtual reality, and integrating the chemical senses into play. Analogous to video games, biotic games could have significant conceptual and cost-reducing effects on biotechnology and eventually healthcare; enable volunteers to participate in crowd-sourcing to support medical research; and educate society at large to support personal medical decisions and the public discourse on bio-related issues.