Blocksworld, repopulated! is a hybrid biological-digital game and part of the Bacteria Game research project of Ursula Damm together with the DIY Biolab at Bauhaus-University Weimar. In the project we focus on the possibility of interaction between microbiological systems (Euglena, unicellular organisms) with human players and ways of cooperative play.
In the experimental setup a fluid with Euglena is observed via a microscope connected to a camera. The image is analyzed with a proximity based identity tracking algorithm (using OpenCV) to identify individual Euglena and determine their position, size and motion. The data is send via a network protocol (OSC) to a game engine (Unity3D) to alter elements of the game situation. A feedback system from the game to the microorganisms, by controlling LEDs to affect the environment of the biological system, is implemented, but not fully tested.
The digital game is inspired by the experimental setup of the project SEEK by Nicholas Negroponte, shown at the exhibition SOFTWARE, Information technology: its new meaning for art (Jewish Museum in New York, 1970). In the setup a group of rats were placed in a maze like environment of cubes constantly rearranged by a robotic arm and the animals. This machine was conceived as both a “cybernetic world model” and a “behaviourist laboratory for observation and experimentation”. While in SEEK the position of the human observer is placed outside the environment, we want to understand and place the human perspective inside the experimental system. In the game, players move through a labyrinth of piled cubes and three-dimensional representations of the Euglena. The avatars of the Euglena can move freely through the space and push and knock over cubes that block their way, to dissolve the designed world structure and create new and chaotic patterns. Players can observe this situation, explore the new structures and collect key objects that Euglena will drop whenever they leave the field of view of the microscope. If a player collects enough keys a gate will open and the player can enter the next level, with a new arrangement of blocks.