Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Gaming and science

Things are really slow for us in game right now, with more raids being canceled than not. Unfortunately I don't think things are going to get back into a more reliable raiding schedule until later this month.

Anyways, an interesting gaming/science news related story I wanted to share. Kinda super geeky, but I find this interesting as my undergrad degree was a major in Biology, minor in Chemistry. I've done scientific research in the past, and have two parents who work in science.

An article came out in Nature last week that discusses using gamers to solve problems in predicting protein structure (one of the most difficult problems in molecular biology) through a game called Foldit.

Foldit is similar to Tetris, where gamers use different tools to interactively twist, jiggle, and reshape proteins. Interestingly enough, they found that gamers beat computer algorithms at this because they brought spatial reasoning and decision making to the table, as well as radical moves, risks, and long-term vision. Apparently there were 57,000 Foldit players at the time of publication.

Foldit has a mix of the three main motivators in online gaming: competition (players score points and are ranked), camaraderie (teams can play, sharing strategies and dividing labor) and immersion (players can lose themselves in the game).

"The integration of human visual problem-solving and strategy development capabilities with traditional computational algorithms through interactive multiplayer games is a powerful new approach to solving computationally-limited scientific problems".

The primary investigator noted that "he hoped that "the whole genre of scientific discovery games will really take off." and that:

"We're opening eyes in terms of how people think about human intelligence and group intelligence, and what the possibilities are when you get huge numbers of people together to solve a very hard problem."

I especially love this quote from the article:

"Our results indicate that scientific advancement is possible if even a small fraction of the energy that goes into playing computer games can be channelled into scientific discovery."

Wow, gamers and scientific discovery, eh?

* Press release here.
* NY Times article here
* Economist article here

1 comment:

  1. Oh great, just more ammo for the anti-gaming nuts. Now we're going to be accused of helping advance an atheistic evolutionist agenda.