Wednesday, 11 July 2012

Red Dead Research Redemption

I was very excited to read today about The Wellcome Trust's 'gamify your research' initiative. This is the natural and welcome next step in the infantilisation of research that began with EPSRC's 'sandpits'. At the time unreconstructed academics such as Prof Thomas Docherty complained that the concept of sandpits 'regards us as noisy children who can be tamed and contained...after the sandpit, will it be the playpen?'

Playpen! What a ridiculous notion! No, it's the video game, silly. As we all know, the only way to make research appealing is to anthropomorphise it as a well endowed avatar, and set it loose in a post-apocalyptic landscape where it has to kill zombies with a range of cruel and unusual weapons.

This initiative should be lauded. No longer will research be held back for want of a 211-V Plasma Cutter, Blades of Chaos, or an Insect Swarm Plasmid. To be honest, I'm amazed that Crick and Watson got as far as they did without somehow co-opting Black Ops 2 into their quest for the structure of DNA.


  1. Although I am growing tired of the constant noise of the current 'gamification' buzz word I hardly think this is 'infantilisation'. The research itself isn't being re-directed by gaming tropes and conventions. Its an initiative to try and expand the range of communication avenues for research that is often presented in rather dreary ways. Games are very good at grabbing attention, encouraging exploration and balancing effort with reward. If it encourages public engagement with biomedicine I see no harm.

  2. Thanks for this, and I take your point. Whilst I was being somewhat facetious in the post, I do have a slight worry that the 'public engagement' agenda is hijacking research, that academics and researchers are so busy taking to a general audience that they have less time to do the actual research. So I'm all for drawing in the public, engaging them with science, nurturing the future generations, but I wouldn't want it to be at the cost of the research itself.