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DATE 2013


ROLE Game Design 

Sprout About! was a name my team came up with in a caffeine haze whilst working on a Cancer Research UK 48 hour game jam in 2013.

One problem that Cancer Research UK faces is that the analysis of research data and the identification of trends and patterns is something that requires human faculties, but that there are too few people working in the field to deal with the amount of data being generated.

The aim of the CRUK jam was to bring together developers, designers and scientists to prototype a game that would crowdsource this task, by taking live data and encouraging otherwise untrained players of the game to identify patterns. The patterns that required analysis involved long sequences of points plotted on an axis - research required the identification of clusters of points along that axis, at which human judgement and creativity was more effective than algorithmic analysis. CRUK would then collate trends that players of the game had unwittingly identified.

Whilst many ideas on the table involved endless runners and spaceship games where players collected data points masquerading as items, we wanted our game to try a slightly different concept, and so developed an idea based around growing trees. Data points were represented by saplings on the landscape; a player can shine sunlight on specific patches in order to make them grow. However, a player can only shine so much sunlight, and replenishes this ability by gaining energy from the fully grown trees.  This sets up a tension which means that players are constantly trying to find the most concentrated patches of sprouts, so they can gain the most energy from shining as little light as possible.

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