BioGraphr: Science Games on a Biotic Computer


DiGRA/FDG '16 - Proceedings of the First International Joint Conference of DiGRA and FDG
Dundee, Scotland: Digital Games Research Association and Society for the Advancement of the Science of Digital Games, August, 2016
Number: 1
Volume: 13
ISBN / ISNN: ISSN 2342-9666

The advancement of biotechnology enables novel types of interaction devices, alternative computers, and games. Design principles for effective human interactions on these technologies is still largely unexplored. Here we present the BioGraphr, an interactive tabletop gaming system that enables playful experience and interaction with millions of microorganisms at the millimeter scale: Light patterns (images) are projected into a miniaquarium containing phototactic (i.e. respond to light) Euglena cells, which then arrange into complex dynamic bioconvection patterns within seconds. We characterized the biocomputational properties of the BioGraphr, designed biotic games, and explored novel interactive scientific and artistic activities. Responses by test players indicate fun and meaningful gameplay and emphasize how learning about microscopic biology can be naturally coupled to a “bio-computational” substrate. We derived general humancomputer interaction design lessons for games on biological machines. The BioGraphr is accessible for DIY, museums as well as formal science education as its low-cost version is easy to reproduce, and Euglena cell cultures are long term stable.