Professionally printed version of Gut Check:The Microbiome Game available for a limited time from MOBIO. See below for a chance to win a free copy!
Fecal transplant? Plasmids? Nosocomial Infections? Microbiome? Whether you’re teaching microbiology or just interested in a fun, biologically correct game for family game night, Gut Check is your game. Available for a year or so as a PDF printable, Gut Check has been revised and as is available for purchase through MOBIO for a limited time.
Gut Check: The Microbiome Game Overview
uninitiated uncolonized, Gut Check is a board game about the microbes living in your gut and how different life events affect the microbes and your health. I reviewed the game in 2015, so check that post for details. In summary, players start with a positive gut score and attempt to build their beneficial microbiome and reap its benefits while avoiding antibiotics and pathogens. Events in the game include everything from bus trips and going to work sick to eating veggie-filled pizza and synthesizing vitamins. Antibiotics and antibiotic resistance are recurring issues throughout the game. After antibiotic use, lateral gene transfer allows antibiotic resistance and nosocomial (hospital-acquired) infections to spread. The remedy? Playing game creator, David Coil’s favorite card – a fecal transplant – on yourself. Playing Gut Check would be the only time you’ll hear microbiome scientists recommend a DIY fecal transplant. I adore this game because not only is it about the gut microbiome, but it’s scientifically accurate, fun to play, and a great way to learn about microbes.
Initial Colonization of the Idea
David Coil, a lead scientist in Jonathan Eisen’s lab at U.C.Davis, is the genius behind the game. A microbiome scientist, educator, gamer, and dad, David was uniquely positioned to develop such an amazing science-based game. He naturally understood how to balance the demands of making a strategy-based game fun and challenging, while keeping the biology lessons intact. “There are a lot of elements that go into a working and balanced game, but in this case, they also had to fit with what we know of the human microbiome. There are things that would have made biological sense but would ruin the game and there were elements that would have been great for the game but made no biological sense.” David also wanted Gut Check to be something that anyone could play, enjoy, and learn from.
Gut Check actually grew out of the Eisen lab’s Microbes in Space/Project MERCCURI citizen science project. David was creating microbe “trading cards” to give out during public events. Another lab member suggested that he gamify the cards. Ever excited to find new ways to communicate microbiome science, Jonathan Eisen, quickly supported the idea of a microbiome game. Still, David double checked with his boss, “I just want to be clear, in front of multiple witnesses, that you want me to spend time at work designing a microbiome board game”, Jonathan said “yes” and the rest is history.”
Marvelous Microbiology Education Tool
Since that time, Gut Check has been played and play-tested in labs all over the world, at scientific meetings, citizen science events, lab meetings, and homes. MOBIO’s research and development scientists, technical support, and marketing group had great fun playing and help refine the game and game instructions. David watched many of the matches and fondly remembers one person saving up all of the fecal transplants and killing their opponent in one turn by forcing them to have repeated transplants. “That wasn’t exactly what I had in mind so now you can only play that card on yourself.”, says Coil. His 9 year-old’s favorite move is playing a pathogen on herself and then going on a Bus Trip. My oldest, Jac, woke me up this morning wanting to play Gut Check. I didn’t make it past start for the first 20 minutes of the game because she kept playing pathogens or killing my beneficials off with antibiotics! Jac built up a heck of a gut microbiome that could feed on dairy, grain, and plants and propelled her to the finish line. I’m SO reminding her of those beneficials at lunch. She also noticed how even the drawing of the pizza card was filled with veggies.
MoBio is the perfect company to produce Gut Check. MoBio’s DNA/RNA extraction kits propelled microbiome, especially gut microbiome, research ahead with their unique extraction techniques and reagents. Without MoBio’s extraction techniques, extracting DNA from poop often yielded only crappy results. When Coil approached MOBIO about printing the game, Heather Martinez, associate marketing director, was excited at the opportunity to expand microbiome education in a fun way. MOBIO took on the complication and expense of producing the game and rewriting the instructions. A former MOBIO employee was hired to re-do the illustrations. MOBIO also developed a series of videos about the game featuring David Coil in his “Ask me about fecal transplants” t-shirt. The first video gives basic game set up. I’m looking forward to some of the upcoming videos on strategy.
I cannot recommend Gut Check more highly for teaching about the microbiome. I’d love to see a copy of it in every 6-12 and undergrad classrooms. You can purchase a copy through MOBIO for $20, which includes ground shipping within the U.S. Contact them for international shipping options. It is available 9/19/16. Follow the hashtag #themicrobiomegame for more fun.