Ero.coli - a synthetic biology game

01/27/2014 11:35

by Fosdem Staff

Citizen Science: Popularisation & crowdsourcing

Ero.Coli retraces the journey of a nano-robot in its quest of ensuring the balance and prosperity of their living world.

This project is a single-player 2D top-down adventure game where the hero, a tiny nano-robot, has to explore a living world, collect and combine functional DNA fragments in order to engineer and control the abilities of his bacterium companion and face obstacles and dangers.

This project is based on three main axes: - This game should allow players to understand the basics of synthetic biology, popularise the open BioBrick system - see - Players will have the opportunity to play with DNA fragments to create their own abilities, and, in the long haul, participate digitally in research, or even in our wet labs - This game will be a real gaming experience: fun and engaging


......................................................................................................................... as of December 26, 2013


"Experience the journey of a nano-robot in its quest of ensuring the balance and prosperity of a living world.

Discover a world, full of entities and dangers, and help your companion to get strong to survive and achieve his goal."


Ero.Coli is a single-player 2D top-down adventure game where the hero, a tiny nano-robot, has to explore a living world, collect and combine functional DNA fragments in order to engineer and control the abilities of his bacterium companion.

During their adventure they will have to face obstacles and challenges with the help of synthetic biology.



Educational - Our goals are science outreach in synthetic biology and to design game challenges that stimulate scientific creativity and interest. With Ero.Coli, we want to teach the basics of synthetic biology, thanks to :

 A contextualized space ;

An engaging storyline ;

An embedded assessment system ;


Simulation - The players should be allowed to experiment with a flexible and realistic crafting system that uses BioBricksâ„¢. BioBricksâ„¢ is a standard for DNA interchangeable parts, developed with a view to building biological systems in living cells. We are developing a simulator that would allow the player to :

Collect functional DNA pieces, found in the open Registry of Biological Parts ;

Try associations and combinations ;

Obtain new devices corresponding to real genetic circuits ;

Use them for your progression in the game ;


Fun - We don't want Ero.Coli to be just a serious game. We want this game to provide fun with :

A lot of challenges and secrets ;

A free roaming open world ;

An important replay value ;

An original "look and feel" ;



Discover and learn synthetic biology :

As you progress through the game, you will discover the exciting emerging scientific concept of synthetic biology and its vaste range of applications.


Collect and craft DNA bricks to create your own abilities :

The bacterium you embody can equip a lot of devices: some of these devices can be earned as rewards, others can be built with a crafting system.


Explore an interactive living world at the scale of a cell :

As a bacterium, you evolve at the cell scale and can interact with other lifeforms, environment and nutrients.


Resolve realistic challenges and puzzles based on life science :

With your abilities, solve puzzles and platformer challenges with a lot of freedom!


Science & Society

The emerging discipline of synthetic biology applies engineering principles and methodology to biological systems. Synthetic biologists aim to extend or modify the behavior of biological organisms and engineer them to perform controlled and reliable useful tasks.

The founders of the field applied the engineering strategy, based on standardization, decoupling, hierarchization and abstraction to the sciences of life, in order to better understand and deal with the complexity of biological systems, and make biology easier to engineer (Weiss et al., 1999; Weiss, 2001; Endy, 2005; Keasling, 2005). On this purpose synthetic biologists have been defining and compiling standard biological parts, corresponding to DNA sequences with defined structure and function, called BioBricksâ„¢. Using these standardized and well-characterized interchangeable biological devices, it is possible to build synthetic complex networks, pathways and functions, in a programmatic fashion inspired by electrical engineering.


Thus, over the past decade, synthetic biology has been improving the design and construction of synthetic biological systems, and the re-design of existing ones for useful purposes. Nowadays this field holds promising potential to offer technological tools that could be used to benefit society and meet current scientific challenges: energy, biofuels, environmental issues, food production, materials, chemistry, human health, pharmaceuticals, and many others.


Ero.Coli aims to promote the promise and potential benefits of synthetic biology, as well as to warn the public about the risks and potential harms. This young interdisciplinary field has considerably grown over the past few years and raises concerns about (anticipated or unanticipated) risks to the environment, biodiversity, biosecurity, ethics, and health; nowadays it is crucial to raise awareness about these issues. Therefore, we aim to promote intellectual responsibility and ethics [[Which “ethics”? -- DNI]] education regarding the design and engineering of living organisms.



This game project is currently under development by a small team at the CRI Paris. We are using the Unity game engine, and plan to release a highly polished demo version of the game.


In order to create a scientifically accurate game, we first built the Reaction Engine, our homemade simulator (you can find the documentation here).


Our long-term objective is to provide a free web-based game and editing tools to the players.



Synthetic Biology : Website:


BioBricks Foundation : Website:


Registry of Standard Biological Parts: Website:


Citizen Cyberlab : Website:


Digital  Synthetic  Biology  Club      |      CRI Paris   -


[Note: As if there weren't enough rouge foreign genes floating around out there that nobody really understands permanently infiltrating major areas of human existence on this planet, now we are training high school and college kids (with no courses in genetics, much less human genetics) around the world how to play really cool games with BioBricks (bricks of artificial DNA made according to computer-designed programs) in their garages. Taught by faculties of engineers (physical scientists, not life scientists) who also have no course work, much less Ph.D.'s in genetics (much less human genetics), we now have nanobots -- some of which can self-replicate themselves -- playing with BioBricks and designing cool new artificial DNA's too!. The sponsors want the kids to help them in building biological systems in living cells. What kind of cells are those going to be, and for what purpose? Synthetic biology and nanotechnology (both referred to by those in the field as genetic engineering on steroids) have now paired up to inject all these foreign artificial genes into our energy, biofuels, environmental issues, food production, materials, chemistry, human health, pharmaceuticals, and many others. So who cares if these kids are contaminating the planet and everything in it (including themselves)?! My grad school human genetics professor would have called in the Marines! The silence is -- truly -- deadening. -- DNI]