‘ Fraxinus’ is a new Facebook game of competitive pattern sequencing with a real world twist. Developed in collaboration between BAFTA-nominated game developers Team Cooper and the pioneering research scientists at The Sainsbury Laboratory the game is part of the Open Ash Die Back project, using social media to crowdsource scientific research.
The patterns players are challenged to manipulate are made using genetic data sets taken from ash trees in the UK, some of which are infected with the deadly Chalara fungus that is currently causing an epidemic of disease. ‘Fraxinus’ (the Latin name of the genus of ash tree) intends to help the scientific community by using the results of every player’s game taking advantage of our natural human capacity for pattern recognition.
The key challenge of designing a game specifically for Facebook was to balance engaging and addictive game play with the generation of scientifically beneficial results. These results will then be published for scientists to utilise, providing an open source supply for scientific research.
Team Cooper’s Lead Developer Russell Stearman said “We are excited by the prospect that every player will contribute meaningful data to the open ash dieback project and in a unique move can be officially recognised in scientific papers.”
Matching sequences closely earns high scores and allows players to claim patterns for their collection. However, if another player uses the same pattern to achieve a higher score, they can steal the pattern and claim it for their own. This competitive element adds repeat value as players try to build and maintain their collection. Plus each pattern theft only serves to make the resulting data more accurate. ‘Fraxinus’ is a game of patience and thoughtful process, short term losses can lead to long term gains. Players will need to identify their own best game strategy to hold on to their patterns.
The game will be placed on Facebook and is found at https://apps.facebook.com/fraxinusgame/ or by searching the site for ‘Fraxinus Game’. As well as being shared by its players, it will also be promoted via online advertising.