Role-Play Powerful ‘EVE Online’ as Covid-19 Researchers


They all know about saving real worlds, but players are now called to researchers to lend to one of the most common human crises-the Covid-19 pandemic. To date, they have reached the occasion and delivered the equivalent of 471 years of work.

In multiplayer space opera EVE Online, a mini-game called Project Exploration doubling as a citizen science platform, studied the human immune system response to the novel coronavirus. Participants took the analysis of the data through gameplay to help researchers isolate specific criteria such as predicting disease severity.

The project is a collaboration of McGill University, British Columbia Cancer Research Center, University of Pennsylvania, and University of Modena and Reggio Emilia. Designing the component of citizen science, EVE Online developer CCP Games worked together Massively Multiplayer Online Science (MMOS), a Swiss company that connects scientific research to games to build a seamless gaming experience. According to a CCP Games spokesperson, there are 426,000 players participating in the Covid-19 mini-game today, and they have completed 1.8 million analysis tasks since the project’s launch in June 2020.

In the most competitive of the MMORPG space, getting and retaining players is no end to the challenge. For citizen science projects, said Bergur Finnbogason, a creative director at EVE Online, the continuity of the players is critical. Unlike distributed computer programs like SETI @ Home, which require powerful computing power, projects like this require human input. And for that you need players to come back to play again and again.

Despite the fall numbers, EVE Online remains famous as one of the longest -running online multiplayer games – it’s already gone World of Warcraft in a year and a half, and is callednot the same. ”Its vast universe, called New Eden, consists of nearly 8,000 star systems. The gameplay is the culmination of a DIY space opera, where players – called capsules – embark on epic space missions that involve exploration, mining, industry, and more. In addition, there is a lot of looting, as well as no capture PvP and PvE combat. In the midst of grabbing for cosmic treasures and glory, capsules can also take the time to scale up the critical processes of Earth exploration through Project Discovery. Instead, they are rewarded with unique in-game goodies, such as exclusive clothing and face additions, not to mention the honor of having a hand in real-world science achievements.

In Project Discovery’s most recent mission, players helped scientists study the effect of Covid-19 on our immune system by analyzing the blood of infected individuals for signs of disease. “We created an interface with scientific servers… [through which] you can exchange the data [into the game], “According to Finnbogason. Players must locate and mark blood cell clusters in Covid-19-infected patients using a tracking tool.

“Often, it’s easy to see big and dense clustering,” he says, “but when things get a little too much, there’s going to be money, in a way.” Many players work on the same data sets to reach consensus about specific areas of interest. Once the data sets are sent back to the research lab and verified, a higher-resolution cross-section of the area is returned to the game for players to view again.

The process has helped scientists pinpoint areas they need to look at more to understand infection in different populations and cell differences. The contribution of the players, according to David Ecker, director of production for EVE Online, can help cut down on a ton of data crunching activities that scientists have to do. Considered to have fewer scientists compared to players, he added, “we can just skip them ahead many years of work, so [only] take a look at the samples our players consider worth a look. ”

Data submitted by citizen scientists will not only help researchers study SARS-CoV2 infections. It can also be training data for artificial intelligence systems so that these kinds of processes can be automated in the future. Trained A’s can help not only in Covid-19 research but other diseases.



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