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Every respectable gamer has a notion of what Eve Online means. But for the uninitiated, there’s a mystery shroud surrounding the game, and from time to time it is pierced with news of huge space battles, with thousands of players engaged, or stunning stories of corporate espionage and betrayal, or a heist that decides the fate of an alliance. It is the ultimate sandbox, a universe shaped by the actions of the players, with real life like economical and political principles.

Most of the time though, real life is the very thing we are trying to escape from while playing games. We connect across the globe, across different generations of gamers, across social status or wealth, to play games and create communities around them, to foster and shelter our digital alter egos. But when a pandemic ravages the world, the real one, it permeates every layer of the society. The stereotypical gamer might have an advantage over the average citizen in a pandemic scenario, given the fact that social distancing might be already ingrained in his routine. 

However, over the last decade, the gaming industry has become a huge player in the entertainment industry, and people from all walks of life, more often than not, unwind playing online games. Gaming has served as a valid distraction during the lockdown, but there are game developers out there who think that gamers can actually change the world.

CCP Games, the developers of Eve Online, have a special link with their player base. Every year, the Eve Online citizens elect a consultative body,  comprised of 10 representative figures from the community. Derived from a democratic process, the council is shaped by ingame macro politics, and in turn it has the mission of guiding and helping CCP to understand the needs of their player base. In other words, the game extends in real life to help shape the game.

Project Discovery is a CCP initiative, in partnership with Massively Multiplayer Online Science (MMOS) and various renowned universities, that is meant to insert real life science into the game to help shape our real world. At its core, Project Discovery, taglined ‘citizen science’, means crowdfunded brain power tasked to sift through a huge database of scientifical samples. The whole process is disguised as a minigame woven into the Eve lore and it offers ingame rewards for the players who choose to engage with it.

Project Discovery –  Phase One was revealed in 2016 as a collaboration between CCP Games, Reyjavik University, the Human Protein Atlas, and MMOS, and it put in front of the players the task of categorizing the structures of human cells with the goal of identifying proteins. Phase Two was launched in the summer of 2017 as a partnership between CCP Games, MMOS, Reykjavík University and University of Geneva, designed to enable players to analyse graphs for variations in a star’s luminosity that might indicate the presence of an exoplanet.

Eve Online Project Discovery

Yesterday, June 15, 2020, CCP implemented Phase Three of Project Discovery, aimed at the burning issue of the past few months across the globe: COVID-19. The minigame is built around the process of analysing data produced by flow cytometers with the goal of separating clusters of cells to help scientists better understand how our immune system matches against this new and savage strain of coronavirus. Besides the usual rewards, like ingame currency, skins for space ships, or character customizations bits, this year, to match the fashion forced upon us by the lockdowns, players can also obtain masks for their characters to keep us all aware that the danger has not passed yet.

Across all game genres, we can find Player versus Environment or Player versus Player mechanics. Those who play Eve now have the option to Player versus COVID for a better future.

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