Borderlands Science Program Could Assist With COVID-19 Studies

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Borderlands 3 may be a great multiplayer looter shooter, but it’s also now an accessory to some important scientific studies.

In a letter published in the scientific journal Nature Biotechnology, researchers from the Borderlands Science program have discussed their findings from a special data sequencing mini game built right into the popular game. These very same findings could be used, the authors suggest, in the eventual study of COVID-19, the illness caused by the novel coronavirus.

The letter’s title, “Leveling Up Citizen Science,” is a reference to the concept of involving the public in solving scientific problems, much like the 2008 puzzle challenge Foldit. It asked online players to predict protein 3D structure by playing online puzzle games, which generated a staggering amount of useful results.

The letter’s authors, which include McGill University’s Jérôme Waldispühl (and even Gearbox Software’s Randy Pitchford), posit that Borderlands Science has generated levels of player engagement that can only be described in an “order of magnitude” higher than any other attempts at using video games to resolve scientific dilemmas.

“At first glance, the match between user base and scientific problem seems unlikely,” the letter states. “The fast-paced, first person shooter-looter game filled with dark humor is primarily designed for gamers seeking adventure and action.” This is certainly true, but it seems those same players are open to puzzle-solving for a cause as well.

Borderlands Science has only been available in-game since April 2020. Players are invited to take part in a tile-matching game above the Sanctuary III via arcade cabinet. With the aid of players working to solve puzzles in the mini game, scientists can work to align microbial 16S rNA sequences in the human microbiome.

Crowdsourcing computational power like this has generated thousands of work hours per day, which previously could only top out at around a few hundred when left to researchers alone.

While meaningful scientific research on COVID-19 using Borderlands 3 as the catalyst is still a ways off, it’s still very cool to think that playing games could be one useful way to get to the bottom of the illness that’s currently plaguing the globe.

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I'm Malkit singh rataul.

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