The news media loves to villainize gamers. Mostly it’s because they’re attacking something that they don’t understand and believe has a tenuous causal link to violent acts. However, while most media organizations report these incidents with professional detachment, Fox News almost takes some twisted sense of pleasure out of it. Indeed, there have been numerous times when Fox’s news reporting concerning games has been so outrageous that the games press has had no choice but to respond in order to defend itself. Like the time that Fox News said Bulletstorm was the worst game ever, and wound up actually boosting sales. Or how about the time when Fox attacked the NEA for its ruling regarding games as art? Who could forget their stance on Duke Nukem Forever’s Capture the Babe mode and then the recent outrageous claims over how Sim City and Flower are ‘boring’ and represent a ‘liberal agenda‘? The list goes on and on.
Given these past instances, imagine my surprise when I saw an article painting gamers in a good light coming from none other than Fox News.
The story in question talks about researchers at the University of Washington who recently used a protein puzzle program called Foldit to make a scientific breakthrough in the structure of a retroviral protein. The researchers, who are going to be published in the journal Nature Structural and Molecular Biology, state that three dimensional models built by players of the retroviral protein have revealed information that could lead to the development of new drugs to target specific sites in order to inhibit it. They predict that these drugs could inhibit HIV and thereby also prevent AIDS. The breakthrough comes after years of struggling with automated protein folding systems.
Seth Cooper, a co-creator of the program, helped build it a few years ago at the university. He states in the article that humans have spatial reasoning skills that computers do not.
“Games provide a framework for bringing together the strengths of computers and humans. The results in this week’s paper show that gaming, science and computation can be combined to make advances that were not possible before.”
The researchers too express hope that gamers could be mobilized like this in the future in order to provide further scientific insight in this and other areas. Firas Khatib, a lead author of the study, speaks of the abilities of gamers and how they succeed where automated computations could not.
“We wanted to see if human intuition could succeed where automated methods had failed. The ingenuity of game players is a formidable force that, if properly directed, can be used to solve a wide range of scientific problems.”
It’s nice to see that gaming is getting some positive press from our friends in the scientific community, and to know that all those hours playing Tetris or other puzzle games could come in handy with respect to the future of humanity. Let’s just hope it doesn’t turn into some Ender’s Game scenario. Because no one wants to hear Fox’s take on that.
If you would like to play Foldit you can create a user account (required to play) and download the game for free here. It’s slow at moment due to all the new server traffic, but give it some time and it will connect. So go on… solve some puzzles… for science… you monsters!
Source: Fox News