In recent years, crowdsourcing technology has begun to engage gamers – a pool of incredibly focused individuals who spend hours glued to their computers or mobile devices every day. These tech-savvy folks (who prefer to relax by rearranging colored blocks or helping animated moles build bridges) have been simultaneously organizing genetic code, designing RNA models, and sifting through the expense receipts of corrupt politicians in London.
In November, a team at Montreal’s McGill University released Phylo, a computer game that could help scientists conduct valuable DNA research. After choosing a section of the body, players are presented with Tetris-like colored squares which represent nucleotides in DNA. Though their task is simple – to align the colored squares – in reality, players are lining up the DNA of two separate species. Scientists at McGill believe this research could be crucial in understanding the cause of certain genetic disorders.
Following in Phylo’s footsteps, the computer game EteRNA was launched two months later by the Carnegie Mellon University. EteRNA’s players try their hand at designing molecules for RNA, which is thought to be the regulator for all cellular activity. Computer models rank the players’ initial designs, and each week Carnegie Mellon scientists render real-life models from the most promising virtual designs. According to project co-leader, Rhiju Das, “We want to understand how RNA folds in a test tube and eventually in viruses and living cells.”
This latest game technology to employ crowdsourcing has moved away from science and toward practical problem-solving strategies. Earlier this month, iAppFusion LLC, an experienced app design firm, released their new mobile phone app Mental Matrix. iAppFusion hopes that players of the game will generate new and faster approaches to mobile technology deployment in other countries. To entice gamers from around the world, players with the highest scores will be awarded cash and scholarships. More than likely, this is just the beginning of crowdsourcing games from iAppFusion. According to their website the firm’s goal is to solve the “most challenging, critical, actual, real-world problems,” such as helping NASA install satellites or finding the best way to transport water in areas affected by draught.
Gamers have consistently demonstrated the mental determination that iAppFusion hopes to harness to solve real world problems. The real question is how can app developers make crowdsourcing games more enticing for competitive gamers? Some of the most popular games are multiplayer online role-playing games like the highly addictive World of Warcraft. How can online role-playing games generate crowdsourced solutions?