Five teams of six students spent 10 weeks developing computer games for serious purposes, such as identifying cancer cells or saving democracy. Here’s what they developed.
It's insane to spend so much time online, admits organiser Rafael Bidarra. (Photo: King of TILs group)

Five teams of six students spent 10 weeks developing computer games for serious purposes, such as identifying cancer cells or practise democracy. Here’s what they developed.

Rafael Bidarra has been teaching the interdisciplinary Serious Games master course for over 10 years, and this year with Mijael Bueno. But this was the first time ever that student teams didn’t physically meet, and that the complete course took place online. The quality hasn’t suffered, Bidarra remarks. He is impressed with the games’ graphics and storylines, and with the creative solutions that the students have developed. The only thing he did worry about was the students’ screen time. “It’s insane to spend so much time online.”

Most of the 30 students came from the EEMCS Faculty, four from the TPM Faculty and one from the Science Education & Communication master (Applied Sciences). This is what they’ve developed in the second quarter.

Veganity – This game helps you to live without animal products, and to adopt a vegan lifestyle. It all begins with setting goals: which animal products, ranging from red meat to eggs, will you ban for how many days? The app helps you track your diet every day and shows the environmental benefits in CO2, water and land savings. On top of that, you will receive tips on how to replace butter and milk for example. The game was commissioned by Game Tailors. Info sheet available.

King of the TILs – What looks like a turn-based strategy game is in fact a very shrewd way of getting people to identify cancer cells and lymphocytes in pathological slides. The classified slides serve as training data for AI systems designed to diagnose and treat breast cancer. However, classification is tedious, and it takes time to become good at it. In the game, if you identify tumour-infiltrating lymphocytes (TILs), you earn the points to continue your quest. The game was commissioned by Hugo Horlings (Netherlands Cancer Institute NKI).  Info sheet available.

A Hole New Perspective – Do you remember Tetris? A game from the 1980s in which you turned a falling 2D shape, made from square blocks, so that it would best fit onto a pile. The students in this team have developed a 3D-version in which you have to manipulate a floating 3D form to fit it through a hole in the wall. The game trains and tests the player’s perspective taking ability. It was commissioned by Ineke van der Ham of the Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences in Leiden University. Info sheet available.

Diermocratie – The game is reminiscent of Animal Farm, George Orwell’s novel in which ‘all animals are equal, but some are more equal than others’. Diermocratie puts students in the role of animals facing big and complex decisions. It’s designed to help teachers discuss societal issues in the classroom. The game does this by leading students to understand each another’s point of view and to gain support for their cause. Due to corona limitations, the game has not yet been tested in a classroom. It was commissioned by Anouck Wolf from Critical Mass. Info sheet available.

Campfire Stories – The game presents itself as ‘a collaborative game for writing stories with your friends, while creating useful data for research in the process’. To start, three or more players collect words, use them to make sentences, and vote for the best next line in the growing story. A typical result is: ‘witch see tailor at cottage. tailor kill witch. knight help tailor.’ Literature has produced better sentences, but without the structured format. Thank God. It’s the structured format however that makes the output fit for research. PhD student Mijael Bueno commissioned the game. Further info is available.