The idea that video games are a complete waste of time is being proven wrong in the world of science. When scientists and mathematicians are struggling with a difficult problem, they are turning to a very surprising demographic for help: the gamers. The results, moreover, that discovery-based games are beginning to produce certainly speak for themselves.
According to the University of Washington, in 2011, the gaming community was actually able to make a major contribution to AIDS research. For over ten years, scientists struggled to determine the exact configuration to a protein-cutting retrovirus enzyme. Gamers, using a gaming technology called Foldit, competed and collaborated with one another to predict the structure of the enzyme. In just three weeks, the team was able to produce what the scientists needed.
One of the major flaws within scientific and mathematical research is that much of the research is done in isolated settings. This leaves little opportunity for crowdsourcing, collaborating, and friendly competition. Video games provide the perfect way to make doing important research and solving problems more of a community effort, and perhaps more fun in the process.
Video games allow our most creative and innovative thinkers to channel those energies toward very important intellectual goals. Many of the most challenging and perplexing scientific problems, at their foundation, are simply patterns and puzzles that need to be completed. By imputing those puzzles into a video game formulation, which is already familiar and intuitive to many, we have the opportunity for a new path to crucial findings.
Another important aspect to these discovery games is that they provide interesting ways to motivate bright individuals into reaching concrete findings. Implementing a leaderboard so that they can see just where they stand with their competition can be a very effective way to get those minds working in overdrive. Discovery video games also provide the option of offering cash incentives for the participants who produce useful findings.
Most people would agree that contributing valuable research information to the world of science would be a grand reward in itself. This is an opportunity to learn, grow, and produce real positive change while you are playing a game. Most children simply dream of such a wondrous reality. Imagine a world where video games are designed not simply to make profit, but also to evoke life-changing progress in the real world: Finally, an idea that parents and their teens can get behind.
You can download Foldit for yourself. They have beta versions for Windows, Mac, and Linux. The game is free and you might contribute to the next medical breakthrough.