Superbugs

(Longitude Prize, Nesta)

The fate of humanity is in your hands with our tactile science-based survival game

The challenge

The overuse of antibiotics is creating one of the biggest problems ever faced by humanity – the threat that the medicines we use to treat infection and disease may soon stop working.

Over five years, the Longitude Prize is challenging everyone, from amateur scientists to professional researchers, to invent a quick, affordable and easy-to-use test to tell which antibiotics are needed and when. The ultimate goal is to stop the indiscriminate use which is speeding up bacteria’s resistance to these precious drugs.

Nesta, the UK’s innovation charity, commissioned Preloaded to create a game that explored the theme of antibiotic resistance and raised awareness of this key science prize for new audiences.

The response

Games are a great tool for engaging people with science they can make the complex seem simple, and by their very nature pull in players to construct their own learning experiences.

The game takes the principles of bacterial resistance – the way it arises  and spreads – and models them  in the game’s mechanics. The player’s goal is simple: to survive for as long as possible by keeping bacteria at bay, killing them with antibiotics before they fill a petri dish.

Just as in real life, the bacteria eventually become resistant to successive generations of antibiotics. The player must wait longer and longer for new ones to be researched, so using them sparingly is critical to holding out against the Superbugs..

To get the behaviours of our bacterial colonies right, we had to find the perfect level of abstraction and metaphor.  We worked closely with the Longitude team, Nesta and a microbiologist content expert to validate and develop the game’s representation of science, making sure the dynamics of the game play were analogous to the real life crisis.

Finally, the timescale was balanced to subtly remind players of the speed at which this global problem is becoming a matter of urgency.  Skilled players will survive till around 2050, the date described as a potential crisis point in the UK government’s recent AMR Review, and one likely to fall within most of our players’ lifetimes.

The game is free and available for mobile and tablet devices on iOS and Android.

"Antibiotic resistance is a very real problem that needs a lateral solution. The prize seeks to do this, and the game will play its part in the wider education initiative by drawing attention to this huge issue threatening society"


Tamar Ghosh, Longitude Prize Lead

The Results

  • Serious Play 2016 Silver

    Healthcare

  • Nomination

    TIGA - Educational Game (2016)