For the first time in recorded history, gamers have made a positive contribution to the advancement of science. Playing a game called Foldit (specifically created to reveal the structures of amino acids), players created a model of a “monomeric protease enzyme” that can now be targeted by scientists with retroviruses. From the AFP article:
To the astonishment of the scientists, the gamers produced an accurate model of the enzyme in just three weeks.
Cracking the enzyme “provides new insights for the design of antiretroviral drugs,” says the study, referring to the lifeline medication against the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).
It is believed to be the first time that gamers have resolved a long-standing scientific problem.
“We wanted to see if human intuition could succeed where automated methods had failed,” Firas Khatib of the university’s biochemistry lab said in a press release.
“The ingenuity of game players is a formidable force that, if properly directed, can be used to solve a wide range of scientific problems.”
My favorite part: the paper that published these results included the gamers as co-authors!
For those of us not fortunate to be in the Netherlands attending the Digital Game Research Association conference this week, we can still follow along on Twitter using #digra. It’s a chance to meet GBL designers working across the pond, as well as CUNY Games Network favorites such as Mary Flanagan and Eric Zimmerman.
Also, the DigRA website features a Digital Library with abstracts and full text articles on major research findings related to game practice and theory.
There’s been lots of game-related content posted on the CUNY Academic Commons recently, and I thought it might be handy to highlight it here:
- Andrew Boyarsky reminds us that every day is game day and in his post about games journalist Tom Chatfield’s TED Talk: “7 Ways Games Reward the Brain.”
- Timothy E. Wilson reviews Martha Kinder’s 1991 book “Playing with Power in Movies, Television, and Video Games”. I hadn’t come across this book before–it’s interesting to read about these earlier works on kids and videogames.
- Finally, Tony Picciano points us to an article on the Huffington Post about the benefits of families playing videogames together. As a parent and a gamer this seems spot on to me, though I must admit that now that my son’s getting older it can be harder for us to play together because he’s so much better at many games that we are. Live and learn!
Image credit: Jeff Golden