Publisher 2K Games and developer Gearbox Software have launched Borderlands Science, an arcade puzzle minigame within Borderlands 3 developed in conjunction with McGill University, Massively Multiplayer Online Science, and The Microsetta Initiative that lets players earn in-game rewards while also helping advance medical research by mapping the human gut microbiome.
“We see Borderlands Science as an opportunity to use the enormous popularity of Borderlands 3 to advance social good,” said Gearbox Software co-founder Randy Pitchford in a press release. “Borderlands Science is the vanguard of a new nexus between entertainment and health: an innovative game-within-the-game, complete with scores, progression and rewards, where your playtime actually generates tangible data that will be applied toward improving research, helping cure diseases, and contributing to the broader medical community.”
Massively Multiplayer Online Science CEO and co-founder Attila Szantner added, “We are always looking for new partners in the field of gaming, and this is a perfect fit for us. We created Massively Multiplayer Online Science to connect scientific research and video games as a seamless gaming experience, and that is exactly what this has become. I believe that Borderlands 3 players advancing microbiome research will change how we think about video games.”
McGill University professor Jerome Waldispuhl said, “It was a simple choice to join Gearbox and its partners in making Borderlands Science a reality. Working to help align the gaming community with the biomedical field allows these two passionate groups to work together toward a result that we might not realize without the collaborative effort.”
Here is an overview of Borderlands Science, via 2K Games:
Borderlands Science is an interactive game within the critically acclaimed Borderlands 3 that invites players to map the human gut microbiome to advance vital medical studies while earning in-game rewards.
This major initiative is the result of international partnerships with researchers and scientists at McGill University, Massively Multiplayer Online Science (MMOS), and The Microsetta Initiative at UC San Diego School of Medicine. Emmy-nominated Big Bang Theory star and scientist Dr. Mayim Bialik lent her voice to the project, helping guide players on their journey.
Trillions of microbes inhabit the human body—some of which may be associated with conditions like inflammatory bowel disease, diabetes, autism, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, cancer, obesity, allergies, and more. Mapping these microbes will help scientists better understand them and provide an important foundation for future microbiome studies that may lead to more sensitive diagnostics and personalized treatments. However, because of the number of microbes, computers struggle to relate them, which makes mapping the gut nearly impossible.
This is where Borderlands Science, a mini-video game within Borderlands 3, comes in. Leveraging the massive breadth of the video gaming community, the project crowdsources players’ skills and applies them to mapping the human gut biome, saving medical researchers hundreds of thousands of hours in training computers to do the same.
Borderlands Science encodes the DNA of each gut microbe as a string of bricks of four different shapes and colors. Players connect those colored shapes to help scientists estimate the similarity between each microbe. The more puzzles players solve, the more they help decode the human gut microbiome, all while earning rewards that can be used in Borderlands 3.
Next time you’re aboard Sanctuary III in Borderlands 3, keep an eye out for the newly installed Borderlands Science arcade game in the corner of Doctor Tannis’ infirmary.
Watch a trailer for Borderlands Science below.