Genome Game (requires a recent HTML5-aware browser)

An HTML5/Javascript game for teaching about bioinformatics, binary numbers and understanding genomes. Requires a recent browser to work. Known to work in Safari 5.1.8 and Firefox 19.0.2, but not in IE 8. Play with it now!

We are aiming to create a game/teaching activity for secondary school children based on bioinformatics. The game can be used to explore counting in binary, combinatorics, and the correspondence between a genome and the physcial features of an organism.

A typical use of this game in a classroom would be as follows:

  1. Start with a chat about inheritance. Who looks a bit like their parents or like their brothers and sisters? We inherit some of our characteristics from our parents. This information is passed from our parents to us in the form of a genome, which contains genes.
  2. You can see a genome (4 binary digits or "bits") and a creature. Click to toggle the values of the genes/bits in the genome and see the effect they have on the creature.
  3. Which genes are responsible for which changes? What do you think the rules are?
  4. How many different creatures can be made with 4 genes/bits? How many with 2? 3?
  5. Click to show the actual rules. These are if-then-else rules. Change the rules to create a different correspondence between genome and creature.
  6. When you've chosen your rules, click to create a population. A selection of creatures and their genomes will be created from your rules, and the rules will be hidden. Ask a friend to guess the rules from seeing the population. What makes it easy? What makes it hard?
  7. Play the game by clicking the "Start Game" button. There's a countdown timer and as you make correct guesses the table will turn green.
  8. How many genes are in baker's yeast? How many in a human? How many genes are responsible for your eye colour? How many in a plant like wheat? How many individuals would we need to consider to understand what our genes do?
  9. Aims for development of the game in future include the introduction of more complication such as AND, OR, and n-ary combinations of genes and maybe chromosomes (epistasis, dominance, etc).

See the genome game blog post about how we used this game.

This game is released under the MIT License, and source code is found at genome-game at Github.