AIDS enzyme solved by video gamers


Roger Ebert may still argue that video games are not a form of art, but a new accomplishment by gamers proves, at least, that video games can be more than just mere entertainment. Last Sunday in the journal, Nature Structural & Molecular Biology, gamers and researchers were cited as coauthors of a unique article.

Scientists have been unsuccessfully working on mapping the structure of an aids-like virus for over a decade. Meanwhile, video gamers took only three weeks to map it using a program called Foldit. Foldit was developed in 2008 by the University of Washington. Foldit challenges gamers to unfold chains of amino acids using a set of tools.

The brevity by which gamers unraveled this aids-like enzyme is due in part to video gamers’ excellent spatial reasoning skills, something that computers lack. Scientists previously used computers as their primary means of attempting to map the enzyme.

“The ingenuity of game players is a formidable force that, if properly directed, can be used to solve a wide range of scientific problems,” said Firas Khatib of University of Washington’s biochemistry lab in a press release.

This is great news for the video game industry which is attempting to be taken seriously. The industry now regularly outperforms Hollywood movie releases in sales, but still suffers from a largely male dominated audience.

This is thought to be the first time that gamers have cracked a long-standing scientific problem, and one of the first times that gamers have been cited as coauthors in a scientific journal.