Games for Learning: Nanocrafter

NanoCoverScreenshot of Nanocrafter, from the Center for Game Science

The Center for Game Science recently released Nanocrafter, a game that allows players to put together strands of DNA through strand displacement (reactions that occur between three or more strands of DNA). This respresents, on a virtual scale, the practice of synthetic biology.  Players have to put these strands together through the completion of puzzles that get increasingly more difficult.

The field of synthetic biology is one that I am just learning about.  Apparently, it is a small field (so I don’t feel as bad anymore, ha!) yet it is growing.  This game gives players an opportunity to gain insight, perspective and even skill in the field.

I took the game for a quick spin and learned more about DNA in 5 minutes than I ever knew!  The game does a good job, for novice DNA-people like myself, of walking the player through the strand reactions and what they mean.  This seems like a very good tool to introduce people to this field of synthetic biology, and may indeed help the developers reach their goal of increasing “the numbers of workers in the field by orders of magnitude.”