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The stereotype of video game players lacking motivation or contribution to society is being challenged by the realization of their particular skill sets that offer science the opportunity to advance beyond our current limits. Research has found three-dimensional conceptualization, fine motor skills, hand-arm-eye coordination, quickness, and multitasking abilities were all better in gamers than nongamers (Anguera et al., 2013; Borecki, Tolstych, & Pokorski, 2013). This new understanding, coupled with the vast number of computer game players, offers a vast amount of computational and human processing power. The abilities of gamers have now been tapped as a resource to advance science. Several online games have been created, and gamers have already made great strides in advancing protein and gene research.


Proteins are composed of a series of amino acids in row, often called chains. These amino acids interact with their neighboring amino acids, attracting and repulsing one another. All molecules, including proteins, need to be looked at as pulsating masses of energy that attract and repulse. This is due to their atomic structure and movement of charged electrons. Opposite charges attract and same charges repulse. The interaction of these energies causes a molecule, particularly proteins, to arrange themselves into positions that are most complementary to the opposites attract and similarities repulse dynamics. These interactions cause a protein to fold in upon itself, creating a clump or blob-like shape. Three-dimensionally, there are configurations that are more stable than others and a particular protein will always assume that most stable shape. It is these more stable configurations that scientists hope to identify.


By identifying individual stable protein configurations, scientists will be better able to predict different protein interactions with one another. Because proteins dictate a vast amount of processes in our body, the ability to predict protein behaviors has an endless benefit to drug design and treating illnesses and diseases. Considering the astronomical arrangement possibilities of amino acids to create different proteins and the many potential folding arrangements (although only one will be the preferential most stable configuration), a vast amount of intellectual and computer processing power is needed. This is where gamers enter the science of discovery. Several games of science advancement are available and are building our working understanding of proteins.



Rosetta@home is a program that uses the processing power of worldwide personal computers. This is not as much a game as a program that users allow to operate on their computers and offers a visual screen saver that displays the progress of the protein folding puzzle. The general rules the program follows are:


1. Start with a fully unfolded chain (like a metal chain with its ends pulled).


2. Move a part of the chain to create a new shape.


3. Calculate the energy of the new shape.


4. Accept or reject the move depending on the change in energy.


5. Repeat 2 through 4 until every part of the chain has been moved many times. (Rosetta@home, 2016)



Foldit is an evolution of Rosetta@home into an interactive game for identifying protein folding. Foldit is a web-based game that challenges players to find the most stable formation of proteins. This game operates under similar sets of rules that Rosetta@home follows. Foldit, however, allows users to manipulate the protein structure itself to find the lowest energy (stable) configuration. Foldit goals are to predict the most stable protein configuration and design new proteins that ultimately may be used for disease cures. The human mind is able to better predict the shape a particular protein may take. Understanding the shape of a particular protein allows for better drug development (Foldit, 2016; Khatib, Cooper, et al., 2011; Khatib, DiMaio, et al., 2011).



Phylo is an online game that addresses the Multiple Sequence Alignment (MSA) problem of genomics. Multiple Sequence Alignment involves comparing snippets of genetic code to find similarities. For example, one amino acid sequence snippet (A-T-C-G) from a particular protein compared with another snippet (__-T-C-A) from a common relative may show similarities, differences, or gaps (empty spaces). The comparison of these two sequences when aligned has two similarities, T and C.







These similarities are thought to be fixed evolutionary sequences due to important traits that they code for, whereas the differences may be evolutionary changes or adaptations. The billions of amino acid sequences from thousands of species make up the inherent difficulty and overwhelming task of MSA, especially when comparing dozens of sequences at once. Phylo makes this labor-intensive matching into a fun and challenging puzzle that anyone can play. The aim of the game is to improve the sequence alignments of the promoter regions (starting points) of hundreds of disease-related genes from multiple vertebrate species. The sequences are presented as several rows of blocks, color-coded to represent the four bases of DNA, and players shift the sequences left or right to find the best possible match for up to eight different species at a time.



EteRNA is a game that allows players to design synthetic RNA molecules. By simply following on-screen instructions, you connect nucleotides to make base pairs. Your performance and score are continually updated and with practice, performance improves. EteRNA is not only a great contribution to science, but also a great learning tool for RNA bonding (Eterna, 2016; SciStarter, 2016).



Cure is a game that is played in a petri dish under a virtual microscope. This microscopic world is enlarged many times for players to see and manipulate bacteria, viruses, and antibodies. In this game, players create microorganisms that can fight against known diseases and other created microorganisms. Created microorganisms undergo interactions with disease entities in different "worlds" (environments) such as the blood, organ tissue, and muscle. Each new world offers new challenges to the players' created microorganisms that must be overcome. The Cure has incredibly detailed graphics but currently is only available for personal computers. (Cryogenic Entertainment, 2016; Makuch, 2014)


Cancer Research UK

Cancer Research UK, an organization that supports research geared to eradicating cancers, has several games available that offer players an exciting and interactive experience with highly detailed and stimulating graphics. Cell slider, Play to cure: Genes in space, Reverse the odds, The impossible line, and Trailblazer are five games geared toward analyzing cancer data in a fun and enjoyable way. These games have already contributed much analysis to science's understanding of cancer, but much more is needed (Cancer Research UK, 2016).


Noetic Games

Even the study of consciousness and the metaphysical has entered the gaming realm, with several games available at The Institute of Noetic Sciences. Several games available at its website are described:


1. The Halls of Healing are three free online games that test the roles of intention, attention, and intuition in intentional healing. The intention game asks you to mentally "heal" a cartoon person. The attention game tests your ability to perceive when and where something happens or is about to happen. The intuition game sees how well you can guess a cartoon patient's "medical condition."


2. The Garden of Dreams is a suite of free online psionic (psi) (i.e. psychic powers) tests, embedded within an adventure-type game that allows web users to test and explore their psi abilities. The game tracks individual performance and provides a Hall of Fame with which to compare each person's ability against all other players.


3. Gaia's Dreams is an experiment based on Carl Jung's concept of the collective unconscious. It is designed to gather and analyze collective dream quality and content, and provide reports on emerging trends based on aspects of those dreams. This site will eventually perform daily automated cross-dream linguistic and quality analyses. Ultimately, the goal is to correlate collective dreams with world events, including natural and unnatural disasters, to see if collective dreams are predictive (Noetic Institute, 2016).



Gamers and game playing are no longer to be viewed as time wasters or aimless endeavors, but rather emergent phenomenon that may take our knowledge and application of science to new and unimaginable levels. The kid next door may be a discoverer of a new cure or treatment of disease. The gamer's world is filled with endless possibilities and in many ways is on the cutting edge of technology. Why not log on and participate? Who knows? It may be you who discovers not only a new and enjoyable past time, but also someone who significantly contributes to science. Interested in joining the gamers world of scientific discovery? For more games, check out Berkeley University's (n.d.) open-source software for volunteer computing at




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