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Disseminate the Power Of Research through an on-line simulation of the scientific endeavour

Final Report Summary - POR (Disseminate the Power Of Research through an on-line simulation of the scientific endeavour)

Executive Summary:
Computer and video games have become a vital part of youth culture in contrast to other media which are suffering from a shortening of attention span in consumers. Therefore, a good way to target young people is through innovative computer technology combined with real-life experience. After more than three years of hard work we developed the free browser game „Power of Research" (PoR), which aims at raising the interest for science in the public, inspiring the young Europeans for careers in research and divulging Europe-wide interesting scientific topics by means of an open-ended platform.

PoR consists of two parts: the research part and the hospital part.

The research part is a long-term game. There players can engage in "virtual" health research projects by performing microscopy, protein isolation and DNA experiments, publishing research results, participating in conferences, managing high tech equipment and staff or request funding - all tasks of real researchers. The decisive game elements are communication, collaboration and competition: players can compete against each other in real time or collaborate to become a successful virtual researcher, win scientific awards or become the leader of a research institute. The nine biomedical research topics which depict actual scientific findings and recent developments of EU funded projects, made the content as realistic as possible. This browser game enables the players to commit time and effort to carry out typical tasks of a scientist in an abstract way and in real time in order to gain an impression of a scientist´s routine. We decided to make a serious game out of it, as they are recognised as an efficient way to convey information to a young target audience. The major advantage of computer games enabled through modern computing are the creation of immersive worlds, which allow emotional engagement with a highly complex virtual reality.

In addition, the virtual world is connected to the real world through a Knowledge Base which consists of a Virtual Library (including informative texts, pictures, graphics, videos and links to biomedical research topics and general terms relevant to these fields), a scientific Picture Gallery and a Gallery of Nobel Laureates. The scientific Picture Gallery serves as a unique tool which allows players to look at, sort and zoom into scientific images. These images were provided by scientists all over Europe. Beside the learning effect of this Gallery, international institutes as well as researchers and universities receive the possibility to disseminate their images and make them available for the journalists and the general public.

The second part of the game is the hospital part, which is a short-term game. In a real time 3D hospital players have the opportunity to assume the role of medical doctors in their own hospital.

The challenge of the game is to manage a doctor´s daily routine in a hospital: based on the seriousness of disease and the availability of resources the player has to coordinate the treatment of several patients with different diseases within a tight time frame.

A variety of diagnosis methods like X-ray, CT and lab tests, and treatment options such as injections, infusions, surgeries, casts and medications are available to treat patients that can suffer from 12 different illnesses. Every player starts out as a general practitioner in his hospital with little experience and only limited capabilities but can end as a specialist.

In summary the project PoR was successful and has essentially met all objectives. PoR fostered public awareness for the scientist's daily life and according to the aroused interest (see impact) strengthened the interest in biomedical research and hopefully also in scientific careers.

Project Context and Objectives:


The Lisbon Strategy was launched in 2000 to transform Europe into the world-leading knowledge based economy and guide EU science policy. Bridging the gap between policy-makers, scientists and citizens is therefore a key issue. In consequence, our society requires an open and positive attitude towards science, which is not only ready to allocate increasing amounts of public spending towards research, but also to translate this knowledge into products and policies. Progress in science and technology not only revolutionises the scientific endeavour itself (genomic arrays, whole genome sequencing, animal cloning), but also our society is continuously changed by new technological advances (in vitro fertilisation, personalised medicine, internet, mobile phones). Moreover, humankind as a whole faces serious challenges (HIV, influenza pandemic, climate change), which can only be met with renewed research efforts. Therefore many reasons exist for our society to be increasingly interested in science, however the contrary is the case: interest in scientific issues is waning recently. The challenge for FP7 is to consolidate the status and to set ambitious new targets with new approaches to complement the current efforts.

The efforts to raise interest in science appear to reach only the shrinking minority, which is already interested in science. The increasing lack of interest in science has been accompanied by a long standing erosion of the public's trust in political institutions, the media and education. New approaches are therefore necessary to reach the group which lacks interest in science, to target in particular young audiences to use the available information and "hard wire science into youth culture".


Europe is one of the richest, most prosperous and highly developed areas in the world, which is traditionally founded on a strong knowledge base. It is generally considered that the high standard of living in Europe can only be maintained through increased research into the natural sciences and technology and by keeping up with the other knowledge based societies, namely the US and Japan. In particular with the initiation of the ERC and the new "ideas" Programme within the FP7 complemented by an improved infrastructure programme Europe is on track to strengthen its attractiveness for internationally successful scientists. And therefore it is expected in this area to keep up with the other leading research nations in the world.

Besides sufficient funding, attractive working conditions, modern infrastructure and efficient technology transfer mechanisms modern science requires a highly trained work force. Especially the flagging interest of youth in scientific careers is of real concern. The goal of a sufficiently large and qualified scientific work force seems therefore currently the most critical of goals which has received plenty of attention in recent months.

An analysis of the reasons for the flagging interests in scientific careers shows that it is not only due to the decreasing interest for science issues. In fact European youth is more interested in science than older people. However, it is notable that careers in science are generally perceived as unattractive. Most graduates nowadays find attractive employment in the many research intensive companies throughout Europe, where a science degree positively influences career prospects. The complexity and variety of career options for science graduates therefore appears to be not sufficiently transparent to school leavers. It seems therefore insufficient to provide ever more attractive options for the most outstanding brains in our society or to disseminate science issues more intensively to the public. In addition, it appears necessary, cost efficient and much more effective in the short-term to convey an attractive and interesting image of scientific careers.

This project facilitated broadening the general acceptance of science careers by providing a considerable community with a realistic, modern and attractive portray of scientific career options, where players can prove their abilities and apply their scientific knowledge. Additionally, this game even provides a useful training for students considering a science career, as it will simulate many aspects of a scientific career, students might not be aware of, as they are not formally conveyed in their training.


The intelligence and work of scientists is highly respected by the general public, but that admiration does not seem to get to other aspects of their lives. It seems that already at an early age kids have a very stereotypical negative view of scientists which apparently does not overcome at later ages, even after real scientists have been encountered. According to M. Crichton (physician and successful novelist) scientists along with accountants, police officers, and politicians receive less than positive treatment and are frequently negatively portrayed on the big screen. In an environment with such ridiculous stereotypes everywhere it turns nearly impossible to encourage students to consider a career in science. The public therefore needs scientists to be portrayed as dedicated professionals, who lead exciting lives.

PoR tackled the image problem of scientists in the perception of youths by creating an interface, where players have the possibility to encounter all the positive and interesting characteristics of a scientific career, which include international conferences and collaborations, freedom to choose their own research topics, rich variety of tasks to be performed and possibilities to found their own spin-off companies.


The overall objective of PoR has been to create an active and international online community by providing an attractive and interesting game simulating the scientific endeavour in health science. This community relies on real science data and achievements of EU projects and other sources for playing this game, which simulates the engagement with scientific topics.

This overall aim of PoR encompassed the following groups of objectives:

Objective 1: Developing an immersive game concept by month 3, which will integrate many aspects of contemporary bio-medical research to portray the attractive and manifold options of scientific careers, which will be further developed and extended throughout the course of the project.

Objective 2: including as an integral and essential part of the game relevant scientific data and findings from publications, EC funded projects and other sources in real time from month 18 on

Objective 3: rewarding knowledge of scientific facts within the game to stimulate the players to acquire scientific knowledge and discuss scientific issues

Objective 4: create a highly interactive community, which is expected to discuss also scientific issues, by providing rich opportunities for communication between players in real time from month 18 on

Objective 5: creating a community of 100.000 active players by month 36

In order to address objective 1 and 2 the consortium spent considerable time developing the proposed concept of PoR at bimonthly meetings and discuss it at two meetings with the scientific advisory board and the EU scientific officer. These meetings were successful and a sophisticated overall concept emerged: Players enter the game as scientists, select a specific research topic and work at a research institution. At these institutions they can manage their staff, apply for research funds, negotiate with the institute leadership about access to research infrastructure and staff. They select virtual research projects which have to be completed and the results published in virtual journals. Their skill level increases with every completed project and they have to use research equipment, specific scientific methods and staff to achieve project goals. Furthermore, we linked PubMed references for project names to real life publications to ensure actuality. For keeping players informed about current projects, we integrated the actual EU projects into the game's Knowledge Base (see objective 3).

As required in objective 3 players are able to extend their scientific knowledge by using a scientific library within the game. The Knowledge Base consists of three databases: the Virtual Library, the scientific Picture Gallery with its correspondent figure legends and search functions and a database of Nobel laureates based on the same technology. This library serves as a Knowledge Base for the nine research topics (Brain, Heart-Circulation, Cancer, Infectious Diseases, Immunology, Genetic Disorders, Paediatrics, Dermatology/Gynaecology, Digestive System), their subtopics (e.g. Infarction) and general terms that are important for these research fields (e.g. Blood). This scientific background was written in an easy and understandable format complemented with figures, videos and links to websites and related EU projects and will be updated on a regular basis. All texts and supporting materials are available in German and English.

Furthermore, players are encouraged to get information about scientific topics by themselves, accessing PubMed references, visualising protein isolation experiments, simulating deleterious cell culture effects on cells and providing info about failed experiments, linking equipment with specific experimental methods or fostering discussion about science topics in game forums.

For reaching objective 4 a highly interactive community of players was integrated within the research part of the game. The players interact with each other not only within their virtual research projects by discussing the different experiments, but also in the relevant forums within the game.

Some facts to mention:

* ~50.000 project messages

* ~400.000 internal mails

* ~16.000 forum posts

* ~1.000 people shared PoR

* 30 page starting guide written by a player

In order to address objective 5 and as outlined in Annex I - Description of Work-, the planned running time of the game was 18 months. Actually, due to the postponement of the launch, the actual running time of the research part of the game is now six months and the hospital part one month. This is basically a third of the planned time to collect 100.000 active players and even less for the hospital which will be a definite audience magnet in getting new players. Based on the actual numbers and the growth rate so far we are confident that we will reach the goal of 100.000 players over the next months in the course of the next press releases and promotion campaigns in 2011/2012.

Project Results:
The game PoR consists of two different parts: one is the research part in which players can start their career as a virtual researcher in the labs of a research institute, the second one is the hospital part in which the players are able to treat patients in their own 3D hospital. This two-in-one game concept enables to reach different types of audiences: The research part of the game is a long-term strategy game that is not excessively time consuming, but requires planning and scheduling of the research projects in order to become a successful virtual scientist. This game concept ensures a long-term involvement of the players. The hospital part is a more action based game in a fully 3D map, where players can treat patients when and as long as they like.

The game is playable through an internet browser and does not require any installation. The game is completely free and can be played on after a short registration. For playing PoR no previous knowledge about science or the specific research areas is required.


The first part is a long-term strategy game in the area of biomedical science in which the players have the opportunity to slip into the role of a researcher. They can engage in "virtual" health research topics by performing microscopy, protein isolation and DNA experiments. If they succeed, players will gain experience, reputation and higher positions in their research institute. As already mentioned the game is set as a long-term strategy game. Therefore, every action is carried out in real time (e.g. four hours for creating microscopic images) and the players can enjoy the game for months or even years.

Players can choose between projects within nine different main research areas. Each area is basically divided into five research sub areas which consist of hundreds of different topics. These topics are titled like real world publications and are imported from the PubMed database (example of an imported title: "Reproductive outcomes for survivors of childhood cancer"). Players can specialise in any topic by starting research projects, finishing all tasks and publishing the results in a virtual journal.

Nine research areas in PoR:

* Brain:

o Depression

o Epilepsy

o Schizophrenia

o Alzheimer's Disease

o Parkinson's Disease

* Childhood diseases:

o Childhood cancer

o Genetic disorders

o Neonatal medicine

o Down's syndrome

o Childhood illnesses

* Infectious diseases:

o Malaria

o Influenza

o HIV (Aids)

o Hepatitis

o Tuberculosis

* Cardiovascular system:

o Heart attack

o Arteriosclerosis

o High blood pressure

o Stroke

o Heart defects

* Cancer:

o Intestinal cancer

o Breast cancer

o Leukaemia

o Lung cancer

o Pancreatic cancer

* Immune system:

o Asthma

o Rheumatism

o Allergy

o Immunisation

o Autoimmune diseases

* Gender health:

o Male and female infertility

o Endocrinology

o Sexually transmitted diseases

o Cervical cancer

o Prostate cancer

* Skin:

o Skin cancer

o Psoriasis

o Acne

o Atopic dermatitis

o Burns

* Digestive system:

o Peptic Ulcer

o Liver diseases

o Diabetes mellitus

o Chronic kidney diseases

o Obesity


In the very beginning the players start as PhD students and have to choose their institute and research area. They start with a pre-experiment to find out more about the area itself, about how many tasks it has, how complicated they are and how the project is structured. As soon as they have successfully finished the pre-experiment and they think that this research area suits them, they can start a new research project within the selected research area.

As in real life it is easier for players to progress if they are teamworkers. Therefore, it is one important task for the players to invite other players to their project, either from the same institute or from all over Europe. For being successful in the game it is vital to be good at working with other researchers who are specialised in specific research areas or specific tasks (microscopy, protein isolation, etc.). After a researcher has successfully invited other researchers to his project, (s)he can assign them to specific functions or responsibilities within the project.


For every topic and/or project within the game the correspondent method (e.g. microscopy, DNA/Cloning, protein isolation, etc.) can be applied which has a different level of difficulty and needs to be fulfilled in a specific order to complete the task.

Microscopy is for example one of these methods. The team needs to produce different microscopy images and needs to analyse them. The number of images needed depends on the difficulty of the task, so that the game gets more and more challenging over the time. The adjustment of the images (e.g. focussing on a certain image section) can be more or less difficult, depending on the level. The higher the level is, the more settings the players need to adjust. For creating a new image the players have to set their intended values on the different knobs of the microscope. After (s)he has decided to use specific settings (s)he starts an image creation activity. The game will then tell the players how long this activity will take, depending on their skills, knowledge, staff, machines, etc. The creation of a new image will take for example about 4 ½ hours. This is very significant for the whole game because as stated before the whole game is real time, so this activity will take real 4 ½ hour. Now the players need to write in the calendar when they want their researcher to do this activity. If the players create the activity for Tuesday 12:00-16:30, then it will be done exactly at this time. The finished image or the result of it will be available at around 16:30 on Tuesday in the timezone of the player. The result consequently shows which settings on the microscope were correct, quite near or completely wrong. This is both shown through indicators on the different knobs and also shown in distortions, scratches, colours, etc. on the microscopic images. In the game we are using scientific images provided by scientists and shown in the Knowledge Base. Players are able to get more information about them and find out more about their background in the integrated Knowledge Base. By assigning staff to do more research on specific settings and/or ordering correct values the whole process can be further planned. To be a teamworker is in this case again a very important factor because players have insights in other players' results and can get much faster results because every researcher's highest resource is time, due to the fact that each researcher can only do one activity at the same time. So if two players are working together they double their capacity in respect to another player who is playing on his own. Learning and using this is a very valuable thing in the game. After the research team has created a perfect image of a goal image they can start to analyse the image by assigning their virtual researchers to do image analysis in the calendar. When the team has finally created for each goal image, perfect images and when they have analysed them they have successfully completed the task and can proceed to the next one.

All project task types consist of different activities. In the protein isolation task for example, players need to produce cells, extract them, isolate the proteins, do EMSA tests and finally visualise the structure of DNA reacting proteins. In the DNA/Cloning task players need to produce DNA segments bring them into the right order and validate these orders in experiments. All these activities like the microscopic image creation take real time and need to be assigned in the calendar. The better the researcher's skills become over time the shorter the activities will be. A virtual researcher specialised early in microscopy, will need only two hours to create an image, on the other hand an average researcher will need four hours. This also shows how valuable it is for players to play together and find the perfect team members. Furthermore, the more resources like lab staff and/ or machines are given to the project by their institutes or funds the less time the different activities will take. So by combining good teamwork, specialising on different skills, institute staff, institute rooms and additional budget research teams are able to finish their work faster than others.


When the players of a research team have finished all project tasks successfully they are able to proceed to the publication process. The first part is writing the publication, which is simply done by assigning a writing activity in the calendar. Depending on the publication skills of the researchers and how much time they invest into the writing process they will earn publication points. Every research topic has, depending on the difficulty, a minimum of publication points to reach. So if the researchers have collectively earned enough points to reach the minimum, they have to decide on the further procedure. On the one hand they can invest more time in writing the publication, which will result in a higher quality. On the other hand they can risk submitting a publication of low quality but having the advantage to become the first who publishes an article on that topic. Many different virtual science journals are available in the game, each has a different difficulty level and specialises on various research areas. Some are international; some are on a national level. The team needs to decide to which journal it wants to submit the publication. Journals with a higher reputation need publications of high quality otherwise they will be rejected. When researchers have chosen a journal they need to submit the publication before the latest submission day (every journal is released on a specific weekday and so publications need to be submitted before this weekday for the current issue). The journal selection process is divided in two stages; the first is the basic selection. This selection ensures that the publications meet the basic criteria. The next day the main release selection, based on a ranking of the submitted projects, is done. A journal that can publish a maximum of 15 articles needs to choose the best out of all submissions. The others will be rejected.

If the project results are published, all members will gain reputation points based on the following:

* Are they the first project which publishes on a specific topic?

* Is the quality of the project and the publication outstanding?

* How much has each researcher worked on the project?

So over time players will gather more and more reputation during the game which is the main indicator how good a player performs in the game.


The project leader has more tasks to fulfil than the other project members. As project leader, the player has to gather as much resources for the project as possible. Mainly three resources are needed for the projects: staff, money and equipment. All the different resources are mainly used to shorten the time for each subtask. So if players have e.g. good virtual lab assistants, who will overtake the work of some subtasks, the project members can save time.

Lab staff can be assigned to a project internally by the institute or especially recruited.

Money can either be gathered through the institute of the researchers or different fundings on national and/or European level. There are local fundings for different difficulties, sizes and research areas where a project can apply for and negotiate. Within 24-48 hours it will be decided if the application was successful or not. If not, researchers can readjust the budget they want until fundings decline any more negotiations. European fundings work on a weekly basis, so a project can apply for a funding and the best projects of the week will then get the additional funds.

The equipment is distributed from the institutes by assigning rooms to a project. Project members can use the kind of equipment that is located in their specific room.


Each research institute in the game is divided into sub departments (normally associated to a specific research sub area) and departments (associated to a main research area). Every department or sub department has specific resources available. These valuable resources are money, rooms with equipment and staff. These resources are all administrated by the department or sub department leaders and can be distributed to projects or sub departments. Every week each institute gets money based on the number of researchers and the reputation of the institute. This money is distributed from top down to each department and then to each sub department.

As players progress in the game through doing tasks in projects, publishing research projects and earning reputation they gather experience points which will raise their experience level in the game over time. So if they have reached a specific level and are playing long enough, they get the opportunity to become a sub department leader. They will be asked if they want to take over this job through an ingame mail and if they agree, they will be responsible for this sub department from then on. They can then accept or decline money requests from projects. It is also possible for them to give money directly to specific projects.

An important task of sub department leaders is furthermore purchasing new equipment or upgrading older equipment to new levels. It can happen sometimes that equipment breaks down and is not usable anymore, and then the sub department leaders need to repair it. Despite the equipment itself each sub department also needs a room to store the new equipment. Each equipment has a specific size (e.g. seven) and therefore the leaders need to fit different matching equipments into the rooms. Each room has a size of 15. Because only rooms can be assigned to projects, it is vital to fill a room with matching equipment. There are many different types of equipment that can be purchased like light microscopes, cell culture incubators, sequencing machines etc. All this equipment helps the project teams to reduce the time for specific tasks.

Another big valuable resource is lab staff that can be hired by the institute and then be assigned to the different projects. The lab staff consists of NPC's (Non Playable Characters) and is controlled by the computer. NPCs are responsible for reducing the time for project tasks, but in some research tasks they can also get special assignments. Each lab person has specific task skills, a special skill and a learning skill (how fast they improve their skill while working on a task). All these skills together determine how much their salary is. There is a job market for all institutes and projects so it needs skills and planning to find the best lab staff at a good price. The leader has the responsibility to find the perfect staff and assign it to the projects in their department or sub department.

Perhaps the most important task for an institute, department or sub department leader is to communicate with his/her fellow researcher from his/her unit. As we have seen so far in the game the communication of project leaders reaches from discussing about getting more resources like more money, better rooms, etc., to discussing strategies with the different teams and giving new players help at the beginning.


This was just a quick overview of the game to give an idea about the main features, but there is even much more to experience and more details within the game. For example players also need to look after their own energy. If a player forces his/her researcher to work every day even in overtime (18:00-23:00) the virtual researcher would not work as good as (s)he could. Firstly more and more activities will fail and if a researcher has no energy left at all, (s)he won't be able to assign any new activities. There are many statistics in the game, which give players the possibility to find and define their own targets in the game, like becoming the best heart researcher in their country, the most well known expert for microscopy preparations, etc. This will stimulate already experienced players to define new goals in their career.

We are constantly expanding and enhancing the game with new features and possibilities in the game.


The second main part of the PoR game is a real time 3D hospital giving each player the opportunity to assume the role of a doctor in hospital.

The challenge of the game is to manage a doctor´s daily life: based on the seriousness of disease and the availability of resources the player has to coordinate the treatment of several patients with different diseases within a tight time frame.

A variety of diagnosis methods like X-ray, Computer Tomography (CT) and lab tests, and treatment options such as injections, infusions, surgeries, casts and medications are available to treat patients that can suffer from the following 12 diseases:

* bone fracture

simple fracture , medium fracture, difficult fracture

* heart

cardiac insufficiency, heart attack, coronary heart disease

* lung

asthma, flu, pneumonia

* organs

diabetes, hepatitis, kidney stone

Every player starts out as a general practitioner with little experience and limited capabilities.

If the player does not treat patients in time or not at all, patients get angry and leave the hospital or their health level drops below a critical level. Thus, the player loses experience points.

By treating patients successfully players earn experience points that raise them to higher levels.

In higher experience levels, there´s more space in the inventory, additional equipment is available and the number of examination rooms increases.

Depending on the level the following rooms are available to the doctor:

* Waiting room

A patient arrives from the elevator and waits here for being treated.

* Examination rooms

Depending on the experience level two or three different treatment rooms are available to perform examination and treatment.

* X-ray room

Patients with fractures for example can be sent here to get X-rayed.

* CT Room

Patients who need a CT are sent here.

* Lab

Blood tests are done in the lab.

* Treatment room

Treatments that take longer are performed here not to occupy the examination room.

* Pharmacy

Doctors can order specific medications if they are not available in the examination rooms.

* Surgery preparation rooms

In this room a patient will be examined and treated before and after surgery.

* Staff Room

Doctors can come here for a break to charge their energy level.

The doctor´s moves and actions are controlled rather simply, either by keyboard or mouse clicks.

During treatment all available options are presented on an individual patient sheet where the doctor can order examinations or treatments and see what has been done for this patient so far. Furthermore, a screen shows a list of all current patients and there´s information whether treatment rooms are currently occupied or not.

Players can use different diagnosis methods to determine the patient´s illness and to start treatment accordingly.


A typical treatment could look like this: when a patient arrives at the hospital the player sends him to a free examination room. The patient goes to the bed, lays down automatically and the player can start.

A doctor always starts with a basic examination to determine the main category of disease. This will take some time, depending on the complexity of the illness and the doctor´s skills. Once the main category is clarified, examination tasks become more specialised.

In case of a fracture for example the further procedure looks like this:

The doctor orders an X-ray or a CT for the patient. If the X-ray room is currently free, the patient goes directly there, lays down and the doctor takes an X-ray picture. If the X-ray room is not free, the patient has to go back to the waiting room until (s)he is next.

Afterwards the doctor sends the patient back to the examination room to check the X-ray images. With this check the first examination task is finished and diagnosis data is available. Here an example: The patient could have with a probability of 65% a medium fracture and with a probability of 35% a simple fracture. Based on this information the player has to decide whether to treat a medium fracture or to order additional examination tests, like in this case a CT. The more examinations a doctor orders for a patient the more detailed is the diagnosis. It is up to the player to decide whether to take a risk or the more secure way.

Each illness has a different treatment option with increasing complexity and duration.

In the example of a medium fracture the right treatment would be to administer a heparin injection and to create a splint for this patient. If there´s no heparin available to the doctor (s)he can look around in the cabinets of other rooms or order it at the pharmacy room which takes some time.

During treatments and examinations the player needs to pay attention to the doctor´s energy and hygiene level, otherwise the doctor risks losing a patient. Doctors can raise their energy level by making a break, eating or drinking something. The longer they stay at the staff room the more energy they gather. They can also get something to eat and drink at the vending machine in the hallway.

Their hygiene can be raised by washing hands or using a disinfectant. In every examination room there´s is a sink where doctors can wash hands and sometimes they get disinfectant tissues from patients as a gift or they find it in the staff room.

Each patient has a health and a mood indicator, if one of them reaches zero the patient leaves the hospital and the player loses points.

On the other hand, when the doctor chooses all treatment options correctly, the patient is healed and will happily leave the hospital. As a reward the player gets experience points and sometimes also special items.

This part of the game is playable in full 3D directly in the internet browser through the Unity 3D plugin.

All patients and achievements in the hospital game are saved on the server so the players can start from the last point they reached.

Furthermore, all players can see how well others perform through a local (country based) and a worldwide high score. The game is connected to Facebook, so players can also compare their scores with their friends and invite other people to the game.

The hospital part is also available as a Facebook application and will be expanded within the next months with more features to enrich the whole experience even more.
Potential Impact:
Computer and video games have become a vital part of youth culture in contrast to other media which are suffering from a shortening of attention span in consumers. Studies show that today's students are increasingly game players. An average student will spend 10.000 hours gaming by the end of his/her school career. This represents the actual time spent at school (Hoestetter 2002). The current generation of youngsters has an appetite for risk, willingness to experiment and a high degree of comfort in teams in digital worlds. All this makes players the ideal audience to be taught about complex issues, which requires motivation, initiative and curiosity. Hardly any other type of media, like cinema and music has the potential to fulfil the EU's goal to hardwire science into youth culture.

In Europe more than 60% of the population (in some countries as many as 90%) have access to the internet. In the English and German speaking countries of Europe (including also Scandinavian countries and the Netherlands) internet access is beyond 70%. It is particularly the younger people in urban areas that are completely linked to the internet. Moreover, the penetration with internet access has seen an increase of about 200% between 2000 and 2007 and is estimated to rise sharply in those areas which are currently still under-represented.

It is currently estimated that about 12% of the population is between 15 and 25 years old. This amounts to 19 M Europeans in the listed countries. A study by GfK-Fessl has found that young people use the internet mostly to communicate and get information. But about 75% (14 M) of them play any kind of online-game and about 37% are declared internet-creators who transfer their own content onto the internet. Interestingly, the gender divide is more or less equal between males and females. Females have also been found to show an attraction to online multi-player games where there is a communal experience - like in PoR.

The advance in the technical capabilities of data processing, data storage and the internet has made astonishing progress possible, and has revolutionised not only work, but also entertainment. Computer games have become a multimillion € business, even exceeding the movie business and it has become highly competitive to launch new games at an appropriate technical level.


Serious games are defined as digital games used for purposes other than fun, including training, teaching and information. Their aim is to leverage the power of modern computer games technology to captivate and motivate end users for a specific purpose, such as to develop new knowledge. It is a pedagogic common place that an engaging and stimulating environment is advantageous for the acquisition of new skills or knowledge. Situated cognition has long argued that learning in a meaningful and relevant context is more effective. Games in education therefore gain increasing acceptance, even though their use is currently not yet wide spread. PoR therefore proposes to use this relatively new and powerful tool to convey information for science communication.

There is a rich variety of software available for helping children to learn the school curriculum in more entertaining ways. Browser games are a new way for disseminating specific content, conveyed through the computer in an entertaining and more relaxed way.

The advantages are manifold:

* Easy Access - nothing needs to be installed on individual hardware provided there is internet access (in contrast to serious games which are mostly downloadable games).

* The game can evolve - as PoR is a browser game, the game itself and the information provided can constantly evolve and be changed. This constitutes a significant advantage since it eliminates the need for the individual to keep downloading updates.

* Multi-user - in contrast to most serious games, PoR can be played by thousands of people at the same time, interactively.

* Social interaction - players will profit from the cross-cultural opportunities involved in multi-user playing.

* Long - term relationship between the player and the game

This enables much more possibilities to present information to the user over a long time period (players play browser games between six months up to many years, visit the game regularly four times a week) in a much intense way than a normal information website, which will be visited perhaps one to ten times.

* Information is part of the game

In some parts of the game and especially in higher levels players need to deal with real subjects (e.g. current medical studies) to advance in the game.


So far we had more than 120.000 unique visitors on the site. The PoR teaser was played by some 18.000 and currently over 12.000 active players are counted in the research department and 900 in the recently launched hospital area. These players viewed more than 1.5 million pages on the website and the forum. The game had about 62.5 million interface transactions with more than 600.000 starts of the research part.


In general, most players come from Germany, Austria, the United States and the Netherlands, closely followed by Russia, Mexico, Poland, United Kingdom, Spain and Italy. The average player is logged in twice or three times a day on 4-6 days a week, leading to a number of 8-25 average visits per player per week. The average visit time on the website and the game itself was about 7:30 minutes. The two most used areas (amounting to 49%) of the game are the project area and the schedule.

Players extensively use the PoR forum to get answers to scientific questions (e.g. how they should continue with an experiment), but also to game relevant questions (e.g. how they can apply for fundings). The forum community is highly interactive, with a total posting number of 16.000 postings.

So far more than 14.500 projects have been published in the virtual journals. Most players are basically from the German speaking area, due to the promotion in the browser game "Power of Politics" (PoP). But nevertheless, English is the most spoken language in the game, followed in descending order by Spanish, Dutch, Russian, French and Portuguese.

65% of the players were recruited in the first six weeks and are mostly still active in the game publishing projects.


More than 1.100 individual websites directly link to the game. The largest external websites in the order of referrers are the game "Power of Politics", Facebook, the Austrian newspaper and Hence, we were able to create a social buzz about PoR, both among the already established community of "Power of Politics" as well as on social media websites like Facebook. We are pretty sure that this will be extended with the complete implementation of the hospital game into the social graph of Facebook, which will help to create a constant stream of new players by social referring.


In total we published three press releases about PoR. The first for the official project start in April 2008, the second for the teaser launch in May 2010 and the third for the official launch of the research part in February 2011. Another press release for the official launch of the hospital part is planned for autumn 2011, as in the summer and holiday season only a few players are interested in playing online games. A press release in the cooler season is more effective.

Through our press activities we could spread information about PoR on an international level by using international research institutes as multipliers, addressing also youth and student organisations and by using social networks and game relevant blogs and forums.

After the press release of the launch of the research part we counted in total around 110 clippings from media all over Europe and also beyond. Among others we collected an article in the online and the printed version of Nature (Vol 471), an online article in Science Careers, several articles in computer game online magazines, science platforms such as several Austrian newspapers and broadcasts in an Austrian radio station (Radio Sound Portal), a Mexican TV station and a Russian radio station.

In case of Twitter, we had a very high re-tweet rate about our published news during the release phase of the research part. Beside others, also Neelie Kroes (Vice President of the European Commision and responsible for the Digital Agenda for Europe) twittered about the release of the game.

In parallel to our press release, the Communication Department of the European Commission also sent a news alert about PoR to press contacts in Europe. Relating to this news alert, the Commissioner for Research, Innovation and Science, Máire Geoghegan-Quinn, said the following about PoR: "Europe will need by 2020 one million more researchers than we have now. Power of research can help attract young people to science by showing them the immense opportunities it can offer, both in career terms and for society as a whole."


The definition of serious games requires that entertainment AND another purpose have to be fulfilled. This was achieved within PoR by a state of the art 3D-interface, intuitive gameplay, with rich and complex possibilities. Never before has an internet based game been 3D, providing an improvement over downloaded games that need to be continuously updated if they were to be up-to-date.

Entertainment of playing PoR was constantly evaluated by monitoring forum postings and social media participation of users. Bug and error reports have been prioritised in order to enable smooth gaming experience to other users. Recommendations concerning game concept or scientific content have been discussed and reviewed during PoR internal meetings and considered if appropriate.

Customer support is done on several levels, first is the constant monitoring of all game systems so that any critical errors can be fixed in a short timeframe. The next support level is the direct contact with the players in form of support forms and the support system in the backend, where players can report problems that occurred to them personally and/or ask technical questions. These questions are answered by experienced support staff and experienced players from TPM Games. The biggest stream of monitoring happens through an error reporting system directly integrated in the game. In case an error occurs the problem can be further described by the players and then an error description, which is a logfile and a screenshot of the current state, will be sent to us. All errors are collected and prioritised using a triage system.

The public level for customer support is communication in forums and different social channels on Facebook and Twitter. On all the different levels we are constantly answering and communicating with the players and are collecting bugs for fixing, further ideas or new feature requests from our players.


We are aware of the ongoing growth of the social networks especially among the target group of PoR. The best example is Facebook circulation, which was exhaustively considered within PoR. We integrated Facebook connect as an additional login and register method, which provides a mechanism so that users can register by using their Facebook login credentials. This makes it much easier for the user, because (s)he doesn't need to remember another login combination. It is planned to give users the possibility to post their activities to their Facebook status stream via this technology. For example when a player finishes a research project in PoR a little window will pop up recommending the user to post it on Facebook and show it to his friends. These implementations can be easily achieved through the use of the Silverlight Facebook Toolkit.

Also the hospital part can now be played directly in Facebook as a Facebook Application and the reached scores and a ranking with friends is visible in the individual Facebook Stream.


Due to the delay in finishing both parts of the game (research and hospital part), we have not applied for any awards until yet. But as the hospital part is now online too, activities for getting awards will be set in autumn/winter 2011. Possible awards that fit with PoR are the Austrian Content Award (Category Games) of the Technology Promotion Agency of Vienna (ZIT), a BuPP certification (testing games on usability for different age groups in Austria), European browsergame of the year, Games for Change award and different independent game awards.


As already outlined above (see "project context and main objectives"), the overall goal for the number of players within the duration of the EU project was 100.000 players. To achieve this aim, we originally planned a running time of 18 months for both parts of the game (the research and the hospital part). But actually, due to the postponement of the research part launch, the actual running time of the research part is now six months, for both parts one month.

We expect that the number of players will increase significantly after the official press release and promotion campaigns for the hospital part of the game. These activities are planned for autumn 2011.

Beside the reduced running time, the date of launching the research part was very unfortunate. At the beginning of 2011 many unforeseen occurrences happened such as the crisis in Libya and the Fukushima catastrophe that reduced the news coverage of events such as the launch of PoR to a minimum. As a result, also no follow-up postings and articles appeared in the media.


PoR could gain Microsoft as one major sponsor, who provided us with licenses for software, consultancy from their development department on Silverlight, Back end programming and Cloud computing. In addition, Microsoft advertised PoR on its official website and enabled the possibility to present the game on international conferences.

Besides, we could raise the interest of Bank Austria, one of the biggest banks in Austria and member of the UniCredit Group. Negotiations with Bank Austria are not finished yet.

In general, finding cooperation partners such as media partnerships deemed to be very difficult also due to the political and economic turbulences as e.g. the Euro crisis and the financial crisis. Resources of newspapers were highly stretched and also marketing budgets of e.g. pharm companies were dramatically reduced.

With the official launch of the hospital part we will now continue in finding collaborations and sponsorships for the game, so that it will stay free-to-play.

In addition, we will also implement different supporter functions that will be available to players who support the game through a payable account in the future. These features are e.g. individual avatars for researchers and doctors, more individual statistics, favourites, a guestbook and the possibility to install the game on a PC. An earlier implementation of these functions has not been possible due to the delayed launch of both parts of the game.


In the basic plan the planned running time of the game during the project was 18 months; the actual time of the game running is six months, for both parts one month. So basically a third of the planned time to collect 100.000 active players and even less for the hospital which will be a definite audience magnet in getting new players.

Based on the actual numbers and the growth rate we are confident that we will reach the goal of 100.000 players over the next months in the course of the next press releases and promotion campaigns in 2011/2012.

To guarantee a constant number of players, continuous work needs to be done so that the game will remain attractive to new players. Therefore updates of the game will be necessary within the coming months and years. These include e.g. the development of additional scientific methods in the research part and diagnosis methods in the hospital part. In addition, continuous efforts in marketing will be indispensable. All these activities will be performed under the provision that the game stays free-of-charge. Provided 2012 will offer better opportunities to market a research game, we will explore what the current user base receives as suitable improvements and aim to develop a relaunch of PoR 2.0 with selected new features in the next year.

List of Websites:


Dr. Iris Grünert

biolution GmbH

Karl-Farkas-Gasse 22

1030 Vienna, Austria

Tel: +43 1 7869595