It's the holiday season, which means it's time to give back to communities and do a little philanthropy. Well, for some folks it is anyway. If you're too cheap and lazy to help a brother out, we have one suggestion: play a game for science. The game is Phylo, a pattern-matching puzzle game on the surface, but a complicated research tool underneath.
Before you go running away, we should probably note that the game is actually pretty fun. It incorporates pattern recognition into a block and matching game. You'll have to get through a hefty tutorial before you can start digging into the game, but once you do, you'll likely find a lot of enjoyment. Oh, and you'll be benefiting the future of mankind.
What your pattern-matching prowess will do is give researchers a chance to look at the ways genomes align across species; each time you create a block of color, there is a match. The result is a better understanding of which mutations may create disease -- or, in layman's terms, science is happening and you're helping. It's a win-win, really. You get to skip out on working for a while, science learns stuff.
Pattern-matching games tend be addictive to anyone with even the slightest amount of OCD, but Phylo's meta-game to save the species is even more difficult to put down. It doesn't really matter whether you understand that you're matching DNA strands or not -- the game could have been populated and filled with manga characters dancing around and throwing bubbles -- the research would have remained the same.
If you're still scratching your head, don't worry. The reason the game exists is because computers are notoriously bad at pattern recognition, so creating a game around solving this problem is simply a method of crowdsourcing research. What matters is that once you get through the tutorial you'll find yourself playing a highly enjoyable game with a relaxing, jazzy soundtrack. It's idle philanthropy, with fun involved and no dishing out of soup.
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Play it here.