Reverse the Odds
Screenshots courtesy of Cancer Research UK

Lots of us play computer games; indeed, according to the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB), 67% of US households play video games, and the average gamer spends 8 hours a week playing them. Given how addictive and compelling some games can be, it’s nice to know there are lots of citizen science games available to make enjoying your screen time less of a guilty pleasure.

On that note, Cancer Research UK has just released a new game called Reverse the Odds. Available on iOS, Android, and through Amazon, your goal is to help the Odds – cute little creatures who happen to live in a world that is falling apart. You play by completing puzzle games and upgrading their world to restore order.

How does this help cancer research? The game designers have integrated cancer analysis into the game play. You’ll be shown images of magnified samples of real tumour tissue donated by former patients. As you answer questions about what you see, you help researchers learn more about cancer.  According to the game’s site, the questions will include:

  • How many cancer cells do you see?
  • How many cells are blue?
  • How strongly are these cells glowing?

By playing this game, you will be helping Dr. Anne Kiltie of Oxford research biomarkers for bladder cancer. Dr. Kiltie wants to know what biomarkers could indicate whether a patient will respond better to surgery or radiotherapy. Since something as radical as bladder removal treatment will have a major impact on a patient’s quality of life, while not being aggressive enough will affect survival rates, the decision is a crucial one.

As with all citizen science projects, there is training provided, and the data you provide will be checked several times by other players, so even if you get a few questions wrong, it will not hurt the project.

You can learn more about the science here. While you’re at it, check out 10 Persistent Cancer Myths Debunked.