Harnessing games for good

Researchers at UW hope to harness gaming for the benefit of medical discoveries.

Gamers have devoted countless years of collective brainpower to rescuing princesses or protecting the planet against alien invasions. This week researchers at the University of Washington will try to harness those finely honed skills to make medical discoveries, perhaps even finding a cure for HIV.

A new game, named Foldit, turns protein folding into a competitive sport. Introductory levels teach the rules, which are the same laws of physics by which protein strands curl and twist into three-dimensional shapes — key for biological mysteries ranging from Alzheimer’s to vaccines. [uwnews]

I think this is so cool! It reminds me a lot of reCAPTCHA, a website that uses captchas (those little word jumbles you have to fill out to prove you’re human) to digitize books. Jane MacGonigal has written extensively on using games to improve the world, and as a cognitive psychologist I love the motivational twist it places on gaming.

1 Comment so far

  1. gargamello on May 15th, 2008 @ 9:25 pm

    This is a cool idea. All the people playing WOW or GTA IV at this very moment might be creating a vaccine, if a game that was clever enough and fun enough could be made that would work like that.

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