By Nina Cromeyer Dieke, Digital Content Editor, Longitude Prize, Nesta
To say young people’s attention is constantly being pulled in various directions is an understatement, given the array of information available to them 24/7. This is pretty much true for all age groups, I think, but young people tend to be the target audience given their still open and sponge-like minds. So how do we tell kids and teens about antimicrobial resistance (AMR), a fairly complex microbiological concept?
In 2013, UK markets insight company ComScore, found that 20 million Brits play mobile games, with 6 million playing on a daily basis. The Internet Advising Bureau found that an overwhelming 99% of kids in Great Britain aged 8-15 have played games (online, tablet, console) at some point. At the Longitude Prize, a global competition looking for a diagnostic test to help rule out unnecessary use of antibiotics, we try to engage different audiences with the seemingly daunting challenge of antibiotic resistance. Getting kids interested is a new frontier for us, but we understand its importance, given that kids will be the scientists, pharma execs and consumers of the future, and they are also the ones who will suffer from our failure to conserve antibiotics.
After a competitive tender, we chose Preloaded as the game developers, best suited to create our game. The science in the game was checked time and again with leading AMR microbiologist Dr Adam Roberts of UCL. We launched Superbugs in July 2016 to reach a younger audience, specifically 11-16 years, in a fun and modern way. The game is for all iOS and Android platforms – smartphones or tablets – and available to download for free from app stores.
Superbugs challenges players to beat harmful bacteria on their petri dish using antibiotics. As bacteria continue to pop up on the dish, the player realises that some of them are resistant to the antibiotic currently in use. These are the superbugs. Players will need to wait until a new antibiotic becomes available in order to beat resistant bacteria. It’s a race against time where kids will hopefully realise that the antibiotics they’ve been using won’t always work.
After showcasing the game and running live competitions for top scores at events like New Scientist Live and the Science Museum’s Lates, we are keen on reaching our primary audience through teachers. Last week we attended the Association for Science Education (ASE) Annual Conference in Reading to try to connect with this large network. We have already had wonderful feedback from teachers around the country who have used the game for lesson activities and we hope this continues.
Either as an addictive game for your commute, as a fun addition to school lessons or as part of a museum microbiology exhibit, for example, we want Superbugs to be a popular public engagement tool, and ultimately a fun game to play.
Anyone can download it, and if you’d like to use Superbugs for any organised activities, please contact us for advice and ideas and also to let us know how long you survived against the superbugs.
The Longitude Prize is a challenge with a £10 million prize fund which will reward an innovative diagnostic test that transforms the way we prescribe antibiotics, helping to slow resistance. It challenges innovators from any fields to play their part in developing a rapid test. The Prize is run by Nesta, the UK’s innovation foundation, and supported by Innovate UK as funding partner.
Find out more about AMR by listening to this recording of the Biochemical Society’s public event at New Scientist Live, featuring Tamar Ghosh from Nesta, Laura Bowater (Norwich Medical School), Caroline Barker (University of East Anglia), and Anthony McDonnell (head of economic research for the Prime Minister’s Review on Antimicrobial Resistance). This event was organised in collaboration with the Microbiology Society and recorded for their podcast. You can find out about what the future of antibiotic resistance looks like by re-living our TweetChat, held on European Antibiotic awareness day (18 Nov 2016), with the Society for Applied Microbiology and the Royal Society of Biology.