Nanocrafter is a game about building nanoscale devices using small pieces of DNA. In the last decade, synthetic biologists have begun using the DNA mechanism of strand displacement, a predictable reaction occurring between three or more pieces of DNA, to produce nanoscale computational circuits as well as mobile walkers capable of transporting payloads over DNA tracks. The field is still small, with only about 50 labs worldwide investigating a technique that holds great promise in diagnostics, therapeutics, and nanoscale manufacturing.
Nanocrafter, from the same researchers who developed the Foldit protein folding game, aims to increase the number of people working in the field by orders of magnitude. Players learn how to build devices with DNA through a series of engaging levels that teach how to craft strand displacement-based reaction networks. Players can compete in challenge levels meant to foster creative solutions to open-ended scientific problems, giving the opportunity for players to improve upon published results.

With social elements including peer review of solutions and forming groups to solve difficult problems, Nanocrafter’s players will team up with scientists to advance both the breadth and depth of synthetic biology research far faster than the scientists could alone.