Design

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Aardman and National Museums Scotland ask us to diagnose a cartoon in new animated game

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Most people will probably still remember Aardman as the studio that created the beloved Wallace & Gromit films, but in the last decade, the company has grown beyond the realms of humble, stop-motion cinema to become one of the most respected animation companies in the business. Now the company are adding a further string to their inestimable bow by teaming up with National Museums Scotland to create a unique educational animated game that draws on its existing biomedical collection.

“GEN is one of a number of fun ways we’re introducing some fairly complex ideas of medical science to a wider audience”

GEN, which can be played online using a computer, smartphone or tablet, involves players diagnosing what is wrong with the GEN creature (Aardman’s digital creature character that looks more than a little like a Pokémon) and nursing it back to full health using real objects from the National Museum of Scotland’s biomedical collections. The strategy game allows players to choose from various medical-related objects, ranging from wooden stethoscopes to early X-Ray machines, all of which can actually be found at the museum’s science and technology galleries.

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Laura Chilcott, Senior Digital Producer at Aardman, said of the project: “The partnership with National Museums Scotland has been a great opportunity for us to use our skills both to educate a new audience, and also to enhance the museum’s biomedical displays.” Sophie Goggins, Assistant Curator for biomedicine at National Museums Scotland, added: “GEN is one of a number of fun ways we’re introducing some fairly complex ideas of medical science to a wider audience. We hope lots of people will get online to play, as well as getting an insight into some of the amazing objects now on show.”

GEN itself is a simple, amorphous blob, but its character comes from the realistic physics applied to its body as it’s pulled and prodded around by the player. It’s like silly putty brought to life and its undeniably charming. The interface for the game, meanwhile, has been designed to strike a balance between the clean and the clinical. The design of the character acted as a balancing aid, as while GEN has texture and an organic shape, the interface has been kept clean.

“As the illness takes effect on it, we wanted the player to feel empathy towards our gelatinous friend, so they would use the right treatment to bring it back to life”

Gav Strange, a Senior Designer at Aardman, said of the GEN design:  “It’s a simplistic amorphous blob which has realistic physics applied to its body, so it can be pulled and prodded around. As the illness takes effect on it, we wanted the player to feel empathy towards our gelatinous friend, so they would care for GEN and work hard to diagnose its ailments and use the right treatment to bring it back to life.”

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GEN’s launch comes after the Nation Museum of Scotland recently opened 10 new galleries dedicated to applied art, design, fashion, science and technology, as part of a £14.1 million renovation. The app runs alongside 250 interactive displays at the museums, including a CT scan of a person that can be viewed from all angles showing different layers of muscle, gas and bone, and a game that allows users to design a clinical drug trial. Biomedical displays are a theme throughout the science and technology galleries, supported by funding from Wellcome.

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Benjamin Hiorns is a freelance writer and struggling musician from Kidderminster in the UK.

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