AIDS Research Progress through Online Gaming

Perhaps you’ve already this exciting news:

Over a three-week period, gamers playing Foldit, an online protein-folding game, helped to map out the structure of an enzyme that could be used to help fight HIV and AIDS.

What the gamers were able to accomplish in unlocking the structure of a protein called M-PMV was something that scientists, engineers and automated computer programs haven’t been to pull off in about a decade’s worth of attempts, according to a study published in the journal Nature Structural & Molecular Biology.

This online game, which I’ve referenced several times before, provides a prime example of the open source phenomenon spreading beyond software programming.  It’s interesting to consider why scientific discovery might provide a ripe field for such collaboration.  I’ve yet to see examples as successful in areas such as government, supply chain planning, or other areas of personal interest.  Here’s to hoping that we do see such examples, and in short order.

Health Gaming

I recently spoke to a pioneer in health gaming, who explained to me that there are four types of health games:

+exergames: think of the Nintendo Wii, where you are actually required to work out in order to play certain games

+condition management: games that help a person learn more about a condition and even, perhaps, that add a dimension of fun to the monotony of treatment (examples: Re-Mission, which I have not played, looks to be an intriguing game for young people with cancer; Bayer recently released DIDGET, which rewards user with points and game access codes, after it verifies successful glucose management through a plug-in monitoring system)

+training games: simulations for health professionals, for instance

+nutrition games: similar to condition management games in terms of its educational and behavioral management aspects

We all know that many people learn through visual and/or interactive methods.  That’s one reason we should expect health gaming to be increasingly important in future public health efforts.  And, games are almost universally appealing: expect the phenomenon to go global.