Written by: Alan, Justin, Navreen, Stephanie
Phylo is a project that uses a game similar to Tetris to have players compare the DNA, RNA, and protein sequences of 45 different species including humans to gain points. Phylo uses sequence alignments to help find new genes and decipher DNA. So, what are multiple sequence alignments? Well, they are a way of arranging DNA, RNA or protein to find areas that are similar, which can show how the sequences have relationships between functions, structures, and evolution. These similarities can show functions of important gene site, illustrate mutation events, and trace genetic diseases.
This game holds a large variety of audience members that have joined for many different reasons. A common reason people have started to play is because of what the site is doing. Many players find it interesting to see how genetic sequencing traces back to accessorial genes. It also is helpful for students just starting to learn about a gene as it can show how they relate to others and how humans work. In addition to seeing a model, we find it to be a very fun game to play around and explore. It reminds us of the game 2048 where we must match blocks.
The main benefit from this project is learning about gene sequences. Players can see how large amounts of genes relate to other species and can see which segments are not as important because the other species lack them. For instance, “empty” (or skipped) bases are less desirable than wrongly paired ones and the need to fulfill certain objectives. Players had the ability to see how closely relate our genes are related to other species of animals by the amount of errors human genes have compared to other species. Another benefit is knowing that you have helped further the research that is trying to help save lives. The early stages was very unsatisfying to complete, but the last two stages are usually more challenging.
When starting out there is no tutorial of what players have to do to move on to the next stage. It can get a little confusing to figure out what to do in the first couple of games and how to get the most points possible. Players are encouraged to make accounts so that they can be displayed as the top scorer, but it would be nice if the profiles could track what disease they examined or how many puzzles the player has done. Also if the profiles could track which puzzles helped produce a paper, or contributed to the research, the link to the paper could get sent to the player so they could see how they are helping. It would also be nice if players could have access to the site that makes the sequences so players could help design them.