If you’ve ever want to contribute to the betterment of mankind, but also sort of just wanted to play video games instead, Gearbox has the perfect compromise, courtesy of its new Borderlands Science initiative – which, long story short, lets you organise corrupted poop data in order to assist the scientific community.
Borderlands Science might have lofty goals, but it takes the form of a jaunty little puzzle game that can now be accessed from a new arcade machine aboard Borderlands 3’s Sanctuary III. The simple aim of the game is to sort coloured tiles into ordered lines, which probably doesn’t sound all that science-yon the face of it.
However, the key to all of this is what’s going on beneath Borderlands 3’s colourful block-shifting facade. In reality, each block puzzle is based on strands of microbe DNA, and solving puzzles will ultimate help scientists identify different microbes found without the human body.
As outlined in the illuminating introductory video above, scientists have already sequenced millions of strands of microbe DNA from tens of thousands of human poop samples, but in order to be useful the data needs to be properly organised. Computers have already started this task, but the ambiguity inherent in similar microbes’ DNA means that errors inevitably arise – which could impact analysis further down the line.
So while the puzzle game you’re playing in Borderlands 3 might appear to be just that, behind the scenes you’re actually helping to identify the errors in the computer analysis, and assist scientists across the globe in building a better algorithm for the future.
Gearbox says the results generated through Borderlands Science will be open and accessible to the entire scientific community, with the goal being to accurately map all the microbes found inside humans. These are linked to a whole range of conditions – including diabetes, depression, autism, anxiety, and obesity – and so their identification could potentially help develop novel treatments and interventions.
And if that’s not enough incentive to get stuck into Borderlands Science, working through puzzles will also reward players with in-game currency, which can be used to purchase unique Vault Hunter Heads and Skins, plus timed boosters that buff stats, loot quality, and experience in Borderlands 3 proper.
More information on the Borderlands Science initiative – which has been developed in conjunction with McGill University, Massively Multiplayer Online Science, and The Microsetta Initiative – can be found on Gearbox’s website.