The Entertaiment Software Association estimates that 58% of americans play videogames.

36% of those play on their smartphone.

Almost half of all those players are female (45%).

Keeping those numbers in mind, one can appreciate why the Cancer Research UK has developed an intergalactic smartphone game to help them analyse the overwhelming reams of genetic data generated in recent studies.

Play to Cure™: Genes in Space is the world’s first free mobile game that uses the collective force of players to analyse real genetic data to help beat cancer. Using current DNA analysis techniques, the readouts from tumour samples containing peaks and troughs likely to harbour the genetic abnormalities are transformed into an intergalactic landscape for users to play through. As players travel through the landscape they trace a course that shows scientists the high and low. Then, each player’s course plot is sent back to scientists for interpretation.


The idea was conceived in March 2013 at GameJam, a gathering where a team of developers from Cancer Research UK, Amazon Web Services, Facebook and Google joined academics, scientists, gamers and designers for a weekend. The goal was to create fun, engaging games to translate data.


The game is set in the year 2594 and the player works for Bifrost Industries. The mission is to gather as much element alpha as possible. We start out by plotting our course through the Route Mapping screen, here we trace a line so that our ship goes through the points where the Element Alpha is thickest. We then simply tap on Play and start flying. The game plays as a flight combat simulator. We control our starship by tilting the device or sliding our finger on screen and tapping the screen shoots missiles. As we progress we gain points we can expend in-game to acquire upgrades for our ship such as increments in speed or better missiles. Play to Cure’s graphics are good enough for a small budget mobile game and it’s something fun to do while waiting for the bus to come.


The game is available for both iOS and Android and researchers hope that this new form of crowdsourcing and collaborative work will increase the chance of specific genetic faults being found with accuracy and speed. So, if you have ever wanted to help cure cancer, you might now be able to do so from the comfort of your own mobile device.