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October 2020

Borderlands 3

Platform(s): PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X
Genre: Action/Adventure
Publisher: 2K Games
Developer: Gearbox Software
Release Date: Sept. 13, 2019

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'Borderlands 3' (ALL) Science Mini-game Reveals Unprecedented Success For Scientific Research

by Rainier on Sept. 24, 2020 @ 9:09 a.m. PDT

Borderlands 3 is a story-driven, non-stop galactic thrill-ride, filled with colorful characters, epic enemies and boss fights, and literally billions of guns.

Blast through new worlds and enemies as one of four brand new Vault Hunters – the ultimate treasure-seeking badasses of the Borderlands, each with deep skill trees, abilities, and customization.
Play solo or join with friends to take on insane enemies, collect bazillions of guns and loads of loot, and save your home from the most ruthless cult leaders in the galaxy – the Calypso Twins.

Nature Biotechnology – a monthly journal in the top 2% of impact factor that covers the science and business of biotechnology – published a perspective paper authored by the creators of Borderlands Science about Borderlands Science’s success, the massive scope of its impact on medical research, and its applicability to future research.

Released in April by Gearbox Entertainment and 2K, in collaboration with Massively Multiplayer Online Science (MMOS), McGill University, and The Microsetta Initiative at UC San Diego School of Medicine, Borderlands Science is an interactive science discovery game (SDG) within Borderlands 3 that invites players to map the human gut microbiome to advance vital medical studies while earning in-game rewards. Emmy-nominated Big Bang Theory star and scientist Dr. Mayim Bialik lent her voice to the project, helping guide players on their journey.

“I am so encouraged by how the Borderlands community has embraced Borderlands Science and the tremendous impact the game has had on real-world medical research,” said Randy Pitchford, co-author of the paper and Gearbox Entertainment co-founder. “Moreover, I’m heartened by the prospect of video games continuing to advance the scientific and medical research that could contribute greatly to our understanding of many diseases.”

The integration of Borderlands Science into Borderlands 3 has become one of the most active citizen science initiatives. In fewer than three months, Borderlands Science reached more than 1 million participants who solved at least one open task. During those three months, researchers collected 50 million puzzle solutions from Borderlands Science players, saving medical researchers hundreds of thousands of hours in training computers to do the same. Strikingly, the volume of work generated by Borderlands Science has oscillated between 10,000 and 15,000 hours of work per day, compared to the couple of hundreds of hours per day reported in other projects.

“The participation rate is unprecedented and beyond our most optimistic anticipations,” said Jérôme Waldispühl, co-author of the paper and Associate Professor of Computer Science at McGill University. “Borderlands Science demonstrates the formidable potential of video games to accelerate research and opens new horizons to science.”

The data collected from Borderlands Science will help researchers map the human gut microbiome and better understand a variety of medical conditions. But future applications of the framework established by Borderlands Science could have an even greater effect. Borderlands Science was supported by the Genomic Application Partnership Program of Genome Canada and Genome Québec.

Borderlands Science has demonstrated the tremendous impact of citizen scientists, and yet there is still so much more we can do,” said Dr. Rob Knight, co-author of the paper and the co-founder of the American Gut Project. “For example, the Microsetta Initiative started to collect data to study the spread of SARS-CoV-2 and factors influencing susceptibility to COVID-19. This project is another instance of the type of research that is a natural match for the Borderlands Science framework.”

"This extraordinary achievement of the Borderlands 3 player community in Borderlands Science is not only a major contribution to scientific research, but a clear message to the whole game industry: citizen science and video games are a perfect match," said MMOS CEO and co-founder Attila Szantner.

Potential applications, like the Microsetta Initiative’s COVID-19 research, highlight the impact that partnerships between the video game industry and researchers may have during emergency situations, when the scientific community could benefit from a platform that quickly mobilizes large numbers of participants to complete urgent tasks.

Trillions of microbes inhabit the human body – some of which may be associated with conditions like inflammatory bowel disease, diabetes, autism, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, cancer, obesity, allergies, and more. Mapping these microbes will help scientists better understand them and provide an important foundation for future microbiome studies that may lead to more sensitive diagnostics and personalized treatments. However, because of the number of microbes, computers struggle to relate them, which makes mapping the gut nearly impossible.

This is where Borderlands Science, a mini-video game within Borderlands 3, comes in. Leveraging the massive breadth of the video gaming community, the project crowdsources players’ skills and applies them to mapping the human gut biome, saving medical researchers hundreds of thousands of hours in training computers to do the same.

Borderlands Science encodes the DNA of each gut microbe as a string of bricks of four different shapes and colors. Players connect those colored shapes to help scientists estimate the similarity between each microbe. The more puzzles players solve, the more they help decode the human gut microbiome, all while earning rewards that can be used in Borderlands 3.

Developed from the ground up with AMD, Borderlands 3 will take full advantage of the most powerful PC hardware available, and is optimized for top performance and incredible gaming experiences on AMD Radeon graphics cards and Ryzen CPUs.

Borderlands 3 is available worldwide on PS4, Xbox One and PC.

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