Genentech asks iPad gamers to save San Fran from mutant cheese

Image courtesy of Genentech

If mutant cheese is threatening to overrun San Francisco, who you gonna call? Genentech? That is the scenario of the big biotech's new iPad game, in which players must apply understanding of DNA and genetics to save the city from mutant Muenster.

The game tasks players with tracking down the source of the mutant cheese so Genentech can deliver an antidote. Players advance by completing puzzles based on genetic methods, such as reconstructing evolutionary trees. The trees are represented by various shapes, each of which is marked with lines and dashes to signify traits. Players change a design one piece at a time until it matches a target. Genentech timed the game's release to coincide with the 60th anniversary of the discovery of the double helix structure of human DNA.

By packaging science in an unusual game, Genentech and collaborator Ideo aim to encourage kids to take an interest in the discoveries of Watson and Crick. "We know that if you want to get people--especially young people--really stoked about science and teach them something about that, you have to do that through play," Ideo lead on the project Josh Rogers told FastCompany.

The iPad game is the centerpiece of an online and real-world campaign by Genentech. Ralph the fictional cheesemaker has a website--complete with blog, backstory and store--and is on Twitter too. A YouTube video shows how the cheese entered the sewers and began mutating in the first place. The multi-pronged online push has been paired with a real-world element--a food truck that drives around San Francisco serving Ralph's Killer Grilled Muenster Sandwiches.

Genentech has worked previously with Ideo on the TED2012 genetic symphony--in which cheek swabs were made into music--and has released a cystic fibrosis game, Muck Busters!, before too. The public apps build on several years experience of using Apple products for internal tasks, such as booking meeting rooms. 

- here's the FastCompany post
- read Genentech's release
- check out the YouTube video
- view the fake cheese store

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