Review by Jenny Bristol, Common Sense Education | Updated August 2014

The Cure

Cancer research game aimed at the already-in-the-know

Subjects & skills
  • Science

  • Creativity
  • Critical Thinking
Grades This grade range is based on learning appropriateness and doesn't take into account privacy. It's determined by Common Sense Education, not the product's publisher.
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Pros: There is real science to be done, if players know the subject well.

Cons: Lack of useful instructions or help will cause most to be lost.

Bottom Line: It's a fascinating example of how to make games work for science, but the assumption of existing knowledge means this isn't for learning.

College and university teachers of biology, genetics, cancer biology, and other related topics could use this game as part of their lessons, demonstrating ways to use games to further science, and to encourage their students to participate in the science research themselves. Much base instruction might be needed ahead of time, however, since it's a tool for using knowledge, not a tool for gaining knowledge.

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The Cure is less a learning game and more an actual scientific tool that uses game mechanics to get real science done. Players help to identify genes that give information about the long-term survivability and prognosis for breast cancer patients. These genes can then be used to classify tumor samples into poor or good prognostic groups, "good" meaning that the patient will likely survive more than 10 years past diagnosis, "poor" meaning that without major intervention the patient is not likely to survive beyond 10 years. 

There's a brief introductory section that gives way to the full mode where players "build a decision tree that predicts 10-year survival using gene expression values and clinical variables." The developers then use the information gleaned from gameplay to further breast cancer research. 

While it's clear that players are expected to already have a clear and strong basis of knowledge in cancer biology, The Cure still gives very little instruction on how to play, or how to make the right choices. Rather than offering contextualized help, players are encouraged to ask their friends for help, or to search the Internet for answers. There's sparse if any explanation of what's being done or why, making it very hard to learn from mistakes and improve. Clicking randomly might result in a win, but no greater knowledge about the game or subject. This narrows the appeal significantly, limiting The Cure's usefulness to those who already understand complex proteins and advanced gene expression. There's no doubt it's another interesting example of the viability of gaming for research; however, it's not very useful for learners.

Overall Rating

Engagement Is the product stimulating, entertaining, and engrossing? Will kids want to return?

It kicks off with little instruction and a confusing tutorial. Most players will be at a loss for how to go about playing.

Pedagogy Is learning content seamlessly baked-in, and do kids build conceptual understanding? Is the product adaptable and empowering? Will skills transfer?

The Cure is designed for advanced students (college and beyond) of the subject and therefore isn't focused as much on learning as on getting real science done.

Support Does the product take into account learners of varying abilities, skill levels, and learning styles? Does it address both struggling and advanced students?

The mechanics are explained, but not in sufficient detail, and there's very little explanation of content. If players don't understand what genes to select, they're encouraged to ask friends or search the Internet.

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