Borderlands Science Enlists Players to Help Advance Research

by MaddOx
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Today, interactive entertainment companies Gearbox Software and 2K launched Borderlands Science, an interactive game within the critically acclaimed Borderlands 3 that invites players to map the human gut microbiome to advance vital medical studies while earning in-game rewards. This major initiative is the result of international partnerships with researchers and scientists at McGill UniversityMassively Multiplayer Online Science (MMOS), and The Microsetta Initiative at UC San Diego School of Medicine. Emmy-nominated Big Bang Theory star, scientist, and researcher Dr. Mayim Bialik lent her voice to the project, helping guide players on their journey.

Borderlands Science Trailer:

We see Borderlands Science as an opportunity to use the enormous popularity of Borderlands 3 to advance social good. Borderlands Science is the vanguard of a new nexus between entertainment and health: an innovative game-within-the-game, complete with scores, progression and rewards, where your playtime actually generates tangible data that will be applied toward improving research, helping cure diseases, and contributing to the broader medical community.

Gearbox Software co-founder Randy Pitchford


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 personalised 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 colours. Players connect those coloured 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. A brief video featuring Dr. Bialik explaining Borderlands Science can be found here.  

We are always looking for new partners in the field of gaming, and this is a perfect fit for us. We created MMOS to connect scientific research and video games as a seamless gaming experience, and that is exactly what this has become. I believe that Borderlands 3 players advancing microbiome research will change how we think about video games.

MMOS CEO and co-founder Attila Szantner

It was a simple choice to join Gearbox and its partners in making Borderlands Science a reality. Working to help align the gaming community with the biomedical field allows these two passionate groups to work together toward a result that we might not realise without the collaborative effort.

McGill University professor Jérôme Waldispühl

To learn more about the Borderlands Science project, visit Borderlands Science online.

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