3 minute read

Welcome to Excision.

Before we set off on our adventure, I think it’s only fair to give you some provisions for your journey. They come mostly in the form of the basic philosophy of Excision. You’re going to be playing the role of an Agent who runs into some unique circumstances which are going to require some equally unique talents. But I’m sure you’re up for the job.

The basic objective of Excision is to complete a number of stages. There will also be an accompanying story, but I’ll explain up front that the basic template for each stage is (with some variations):

  1. Read the story. It provides important context for the stage, and it’s entertaining!
  2. Work through the puzzle at that stage.
  3. Uncover the password necessary to unlock the next stage/clue.
  4. Find the location of the next stage/clue.
  5. Repeat.

    The game itself has a few main themes, which closely echo the themes of this blog. Computers and programming are really exciting subjects, not to mention increasingly ubiquitous in our everyday lives. Unfortunately, they can seem intimidating to learn. I’m hoping these stages can walk you through a few of the basics. Of course, since this is a bioinformatics blog, there’s an emphasis on computing in biology, but the skills necessary to complete the stages are useful in any field. There is almost always more than one way to get to the next stage. Think creatively. Think logically. Talk to other people; sometimes people think about things in different ways.

    Of course, what’s a game without a prize? The first person to complete the final stage of the puzzle will be the winner of $50! The $50 can be sent directly to you (cash or check) or donated in your name to your favorite charity.

    Additionally, here’s a brief reminder that, while anyone can play Excision, to be eligible for the prize you have to like the new Facebook page for the blog: www.facebook.com/WhatIsBioinformatics

    I’m trying to separate my personal Facebook account from the blog, and this is a good way of doing it. More importantly for the game, the Facebook page is the platform of the referral/reward system.
    The Facebook page is how you can earn personalized hints in order to complete Excision more quickly. Games are always more entertaining when played with friends, so invite yours to like the page and help you solve the challenges. Below are the specifics of how to earn and spend hints:

    • If someone mentions your name in a comment or a post on the Facebook page, you earn 1 hint.
    • If you share the Facebook page on your Facebook account, you earn 2 hints.
    • Special “Bonus Hints” times will give Agents unique ways to earn extra hints.
    • You can spend hints by sending a private message to the Facebook page.
    • In the message, describe how you earned your hint (Comment/Share/Bonus Hints).
    • If you earned your hint via a comment, include the name of the person who mentioned you.
    • Include whatever question you want to have answered.
    • While responses may not be immediate, one of our team members will get back to you within 24 hours.
    • Questions asked can be retracted, for whatever reason, at any point before a clue has been given by sending the message “Please ignore the previous question”.
    • Retracted questions will not cost a hint.
    • Hints can be stockpiled indefinitely and do not need to be spent any given time, even during Bonus Hints.

    A copy of the official rules for the Excision contest may be found at http://tinyurl.com/oq3aw4r. Continuing to the first level from this blog post implies that you have read and accepted the rules and that you know what it takes to be eligible for the prize.

    Note that this is Base Camp. A few of the stages are located here, though they’re encrypted and password-protected. When you’re not sure where to go next, always try returning here.

    A final tip: a good Agent, like a good scientist, always cHecks their source, not jusT the source of the inforMation he/she is currently looking at but also aLl the way back to the beginning.

    Have fun and enjoy Excision!