We spent a great deal of time creating our escape game, ‘Diagnosis: Kidnapped!’ to run in our building. We carefully planned which rooms we would use, a great set of props, and puzzles. We set up the lab and office spaces so they would come to life to tell the story we wanted people to experience. It was a key part of our public engagement programme. We developed it with colleagues from the School of Life Sciences, particularly the marvellous Erin Hardee. We were also lucky to be able to call on the talents of Agent November, escape game professionals who have run game nationwide.
We tested it with lots of different people and learned a great deal along the way. Perhaps one key lesson was to ALWAYS EMPTY BINS! The game ran as part of Dundee’s Festival of the Future in 2019, with two teams succeeding in the challenge (and getting their first Nature papers in the process) We were excited about the chance to let more people play it…
Of course, in 2020 that is not going to happen. Many of our staff haven’t been into our physical offices for many months, and we now live on Microsoft Teams. Having spent a few fun evenings playing escape games, we realised that our own one was eminently adaptable to becoming an online escape game.
We’ve had to adapt some of the puzzles, and sadly we no longer have a live actor on the end of our lab phone line. Besides, a lot of the problems we need to solve in our research work rely on computers, so players will still get some experience of what being a scientist is like. Ultimately, everything that was in the IRL version is here, and it tells the same story.
What is that story? A group of scientists kidnapped for their knowledge. You as an intrepid friend, trying to reconstruct and publish their work before the villains can claim a patent and make millions. While we may have taken a few liberties with time for research (waiting for tests can be little tedious) the principles are essentially sound.
You’ll need to carry out the drug discovery and parasitology work to find a safe and effective medicine against malaria. The deadly one-celled parasite which causes it, Plasmodium falciparum, has enough similarity to human cells that it’s a difficult challenge.
Can you find a medicine that reaches the right place in a human body, kills the parasite and, perhaps most importantly, doesn’t hurt us? We’re confident, with a little perseverance, that you’ll make it through.
We’d suggest you might want a pen or pencil to hand, and a bit of paper to doodle any notes you need to take along the way. You can work alone or with friends and family. You could even have each team do half of the research and then combine them, to play the game in half the time.
Once you complete the research and submit your work, the scientists will be worthless to the kidnappers and they will set them free. Why not give us a little shout out on Twitter if you succeed? We’d love to know what you think of it. If you have any questions about the research afterwards, you can ask us there too – we’ve got some world-leading scientists ready to answer.