In 2003, the Human Genome Project completed the sequencing of the human genome. This herculean achievement has already had far-reaching effects in the fields of science, medicine, and bio-ethics. And on January 29th, the UK’s Channel 4 Education officially released the alternate reality game Routes, an eight-week experience exploring cutting-edge issues involving the human genome. With the help of Oil Productions and Mind’s Eye Media, Channel 4 aims to elicit interest in science amongst teens in the UK through the game.

Back in October, Professor Markus Schoenberg gave a presentation at the Game City Festival in Nottingham raising concerns about the bio-ethical concerns raised by recent scientific advances. He announced the release of Routes Game, a series of flash games highlighting the many uses of genetic information. Sadly, at the Routes Game launch party, Professor Schoenberg’s neice Rachel Burren received a phone call informing her the professor was found dead in his Peruvian hotel room. With the help of investigative journalist Matt Blacker, Rachel is trying to find out why her father died. Were the professor’s former employers at the bio-genetic research company Prometha responsible? Or did activist group DEPAA go too far in combatting the exploitation of indigenous knowledge?

Every week, Routes releases a new flash game addressing a different aspect of genetic information: Breeder; Sneeze; Experimental; Human Zoo; DNA Heroes; Mutants; Ginger Dawn; and Life, Jim! In Breeder, players earn points by selectively breeding their organism in order to achieve targeted characteristics. In Sneeze, players assume the role of Patient Zero, attempting to infect as many people as possible with a single sneeze. Additionally, award-winning comedian Katherine Ryan explores her own genetic identity through a series of informational videos. UK residents are eligible to win prizes for participating including a Playstation 3 and a home entertainment system: a mysterious “Star Prize” is also available to “the natural explorers and those who really get into the whole experience.”

Thanks to a highly intuitive user-interface and accessible video summaries, the barrier to entry for this alternate reality game is relatively low, and the flash games are both addictive and challenging. So head on over and register at the Routes Game website and discover the secrets in your genes.

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