Over the past two days, we’ve seen our community share a variety of links on our Twitter, Facebook, and Google Group applauding the efforts of Foldit. This remarkable game and the players who support it were able to solve a 15-year-old puzzle about the AIDS virus in merely 10 days (more than 1 week shy of the 3 week deadline imposed by the scientific community).
This Games for Change Awards-nominated title was created to complete a portion of scientific research that computers cannot do. “People have spatial reasoning skills, something computers are not yet good at,” said Seth Cooper, Foldit’s lead developer. The goal in this game is to “fold” protein structures to create models that scientists can then use to understand how cells interact and carry out their jobs. The theory is that if scientists can better understand how these proteins look and behave, they stand a better chance at creating more effective medicines and vaccines.
As more people play Foldit, the power of their joint efforts multiply. In the game, you gain a higher score the better you “fold” your protein structure. By using public score boards, the international audience that makes up Foldit’s community can see how well their folding stacks up. This healthy competition encourages players to create better structures, earn more points, rise in the ranks, and ultimately, help science advance.
Their gameplay has become a powerful asset to the scientific community because these players are independently researching, testing, and compiling useful data on their behalf. An interesting note is that majority of Foldit’s players, have no scientific background. You can meet some of them in this short clip:
All of this game time benefits the scientific community because everyone’s structures are then analyzed and tested by professionals. This back and forth between competing players and scientists creates a loop that in turn yields powerful and speedy results. And it doesn’t stop there. As players create more data, the algorithms which scientists use to fold proteins in their labs becomes more intelligent, which then in turn motivates players to play even better – and so on.
To learn more about Foldit or to begin your adventures in protein folding, visit the official Foldit website.