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7 Once Fictional Games That You Can Now Play in the Real World

StarTrek.com
StarTrek.com

J.K. Rowling never intended for Quidditch, her made-up wizard sport, to be played in the real world, but that didn’t stop committed Harry Potter fans from grabbing broomsticks and DIYing it Muggle-style. Potterheads aren’t the only ones who’ve pulled a game or two from their favorite stories, though. Here are seven more fictional games that made the leap to reality.

1. FIX-IT FELIX JR.

Disney

Wreck-It Ralph, Disney’s movie about an arcade villain who wants to be one of the good guys, is a love letter to video games. So it only made sense for Disney to create real-life versions of the games that appear in the film, including Fix-It Felix Jr. If you’ve played Donkey Kong, get ready for some nostalgia, as you guide Felix on a hazardous journey up an apartment building, dodging bricks Ralph throws from the top. As part of its promotional efforts, Disney built a traditional arcade machine to house the game and invited gamers to play it. One of these machines landed on eBay in 2014, but if you don’t have $20,000 to spare, you can play the game in your browser for the low, low price of free.

2. CONES OF DUNSHIRE

During a week of unemployment, Ben Wyatt of Parks and Recreation does what any self-respecting nerd would do: he creates his own board game. Cones of Dunshire is a game for two to 12 players, including a Ledgerman who keeps score wearing a jaunty hat. Players accumulate four cones to win, but need to create civilizations to earn cones. The game was written as a joke, but Mayfair Games—of Settlers of Catan fame—brought the real thing to Gen Con in 2014. Want to play Cones of Dunshire at home? Follow these instructions to build your own.

3. JUMANJI

 
The 1995 Milton Bradley version of Jumanji is a lot less terrifying than the one in the film (which sucks Robin Williams into a dark, dangerous jungle for 26 years), but follows the same basic rules of rolling dice and moving pieces around a board. You can still find it on eBay, but to get a little closer to the real deal, spring for a replica with moving magnet pieces. Just don’t say we didn’t warn you.

4. TRIDIMENSIONAL CHESS

In the Star Trek universe, chess has evolved from one board to many. Tridimensional chess first appears in an early episode of the original series (Kirk checkmates Spock) and the odd-looking game has reappeared throughout the franchise ever since. Naturally, you can buy your own tridimensional chess set at the official Star Trek website, and master the game yourself, if you can make sense of the rules.

5. SABACC

If you’re a Star Wars fan, you're probably familiar with the card game Sabacc. It’s thanks to a winning hand that Han Solo comes to own the Millennium Falcon. Sabacc’s rules are similar to our galaxy’s blackjack: To win, players need to get as close as possible to a value of 23 without going over, though the betting system in Sabacc is more similar to poker. Beyond a deck included in a 1990 Star Wars RPG called Crisis in Cloud City, there’s no officially licensed Sabacc deck available. That hasn’t stopped fans, though. They’ve been making their own DIY versions (including one using Tarot cards) for years.

6. JUGGER

A post-apocalyptic film from the ’80s may not be the most obvious source material for a sport, but enterprising Aussies and Germans have taken the game of jugger from the 1989 movie The Blood of Heroes (alternatively titled The Salute of the Jugger) to the field. Players wield medieval-esque weapons made from foam and score points by sliding a (fake) skull onto the opposing team’s stake. The game is now being played all over the world.

7. CYVASSE

Westeros’s answer to chess, Cyvasse is a strategy game that A Song of Ice and Fire readers first see played by Myrcella Baratheon in A Feast for Crows while she’s in Dorne. George R.R. Martin described the game as a mix of chess, blitzkrieg and Stratego, but besides a few hints in the books (two players, 10 pieces), fans have had to fill in the details themselves. Although it’s maybe not the exact version available in Westeros, one enterprising fan made a 3D-printed Cyvasse board; if you don’t have deep Lannister coffers to buy a 3D printer to make your own board, there’s a free online version, too.

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Cell Free Technology
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This Pixel Kit Will Let You Play Tetris With Jellyfish DNA
Cell Free Technology
Cell Free Technology

Forget playing Tetris on your phone. Now you can play it with jellyfish DNA. Bixels is a DIY game kit that lets you code your own games using synthetic biology, lighting up a digital display with the help of DNA.

Its 8-by-8 pixel grid is programmed to turn on with the help of the same protein that makes jellyfish glow, called green fluorescent protein (GFP). But you can program it to do more than just passively shine. You can use your phone and the associated app to excite Bixels' fluorescent proteins and make them glow at different frequencies, producing red, blue, and green colors. Essentially, you can program it like you would any computer, but instead of electronics powering the system, it's DNA.

Two blue boxes hold Bixel pixel grids.

Researchers use green fluorescent protein all the time in lab experiments as an imaging agent to illuminate biological processes for study. With Bixels, all you need is a little programming to turn the colorful lights (tubes filled with GFP) into custom images or interactive games like Tetris or Snake. You can also use it to develop your own scientific experiments. (For experiment ideas, Bixels' creator, the Irish company Cell-Free Technology, suggests the curricula from BioBuilder.)

A screenshot shows a user assembling a Bixel kit on video.

A pixel kit is housed in a cardboard box that looks like a Game Boy.

Bixels is designed to be used by people with all levels of scientific knowledge, helping make the world of biotechnology more accessible to the public. Eventually, Cell-Free Technology wants to create a bio-computer even more advanced than Bixels. "Our ultimate goal is to build a personal bio-computer which, unlike current wearable devices, truly interacts with our bodies," co-founder Helene Steiner said in a press release.

Bixels - Play tetris with DNA from Cell-Free Technology on Vimeo.

You can buy your own Bixel kit on Kickstarter for roughly $118. It's expected to ship in May 2018.

All images courtesy Cell-Free Technology

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Habibou Kouyate, Stringer, Getty Images
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Play a Game to Help Scientists Defeat a Cancer-Causing Toxin
Habibou Kouyate, Stringer, Getty Images
Habibou Kouyate, Stringer, Getty Images

If you're used to fighting virtual zombies or flying spaceships on your computer, a new series of games available on Foldit may sound a little unconventional. The object of the Aflatoxin Challenge is to rearrange protein structures and create new enzymes. But its impact on the real world could make it the most important game you've ever played: The scientists behind it hope it will lead to a new way to fight one of the most ruthless causes of liver cancer.

As Fast Company reports, the citizen science project is a collaboration between Mars, Inc. and U.C. Davis, the University of Washington, the Partnership for Aflatoxin Control in Africa, and Thermo Fisher Scientific. The team's online puzzles, which debuted on Foldit earlier this month, invite the public to create a new enzyme capable of finding and destroying carcinogens known as aflatoxins.

Aflatoxins form when certain fungi grow on crops like corn, nuts, and grains. Developing countries often don't have the resources to detect it in food, leaving around 4.5 billion people vulnerable to it. When people do eat food with high aflatoxin levels unknowingly, they can contract liver cancer. Roughly a quarter of all liver cancer cases around the world can be traced back to aflatoxin exposure.

The toxin's connection to agriculture is why the food giant Mars is so interested in fighting it. By working on a way to stop aflatoxins on a molecular level, the company could prevent its spread more efficiently than they would with less direct methods like planting drought-resistant crops or removing mold by hand.

The easiest way for scientists to eradicate an aflatoxin before it causes real harm is by making an enzyme that does the work for them. With the Aflatoxin Challenge, the hope is that by manipulating protein structures, online players will come up with an enzyme that attacks aflatoxins at a susceptible portion of their molecular structure called a lactone ring. Destroying the lactone ring makes aflatoxin much less toxic and essentially safe to eat.

The University of Washington launched Foldit in 2008. Since then, the online puzzle platform has been used to study a wide range of diseases including AIDS and Chikungunya. Everyone is welcome to contribute to the Foldit's new aflatoxin project for the next several weeks or so, after which scientists will synthesize genes based on the most impressive results to be used in future studies.

[h/t Fast Company]

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