In Sea Hero Quest, a father and son travel the oceans to find pieces of a missing map. A smartphone game has achieved the seemingly impossible less than 24 hours after its launch. Thousands of people of all ages are participating in dementia research on their mobile phones, including youth who want to help their sick grandparents. The research data already collected would have taken 70 years to collect in a laboratory, the researchers say.
Sea Hero Quest is based on a simple idea: what could be achieved if some of the three billion hours people spend gaming each week was devoted to scientific research?
The researchers say every two minutes someone spends playing the game generates the same amount of data as it would take scientists five hours to collect in equivalent lab-based research.
In the game you are a sea explorer travelling the oceans with your seafaring father to recover his lost memories, navigating courses to find pieces of a missing map. There are three main tasks: getting through mazes, shooting flares, and chasing creatures to capture photos of them. Every decision a player makes in the game is anonymised and fed back to scientists. They can read where you go in the game like a heat map and use the mass data to understand how people navigate.
Losing the ability to navigate one’s surroundings is an early sign of dementia, so “the more we can find out about how people find their way around, the better we can understand the problems people might get in dementia”, says Hugo Spiers, a neuroscientist at University College, London. Other project members are the University of East Anglia, Deutsche Telekom, and game designer Glitchers. Oh us? We’re just cruising down the Arctic Rivers looking for monsters. #seaheroquest#gameforgoodpic.twitter苏州美甲美睫培训学校/Vfe6TK7Jry— Glitchers (@glitche_rs) May 4, 2016
In a master marketing move, Deutsche Telekom secured the services of YouTube superstar PewDiePie to promote the game to his 43.8 million YouTube subscribers and 7.4 million Twitter followers. PewDiePie’s video promotion rapidly amassed 1.1 million views. “Please check out this game… It is a really cool thing and I think if you bros checked out this game, download it on your phones, we can all help to support research for dementia. I think that is f***ing awesome”, he said.
Dementia is the second leading cause of death in Australia where an estimated 400,000 people are living with it. As the researchers say, there is no treatment, no cure, and no-one has ever survived it. Worldwide, 49 million people have the disease, with that number projected to triple by 2050.
The game is available free on iOS and Android phones.
The National Dementia Helpline 1800 100 500 provides support and information about dementia.
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