How Can Video Gamers be Used to Solve Scientific Problems?

Do you know that in 2011, in three weeks players of an online game resolved a problem about protein folding that scientists have been working on for thirteen years? Are you also aware that in 2012, video gamers beat professional astronomers to the discovery of a new planet that has four stars?

Gone are the days when videogames were all about providing entertainment. Nowadays, they are being used by scientists to help solve various challenging puzzles in our world. In this article, we have listed some ways in which video gamers can help solve scientific problems:

  • By classifying the galaxies: If you are fascinated with the universe, why don’t you join the astronomers in the search for new galaxies? With some videogames, you can sort through pictures containing millions of galaxies and reveal their history by classifying their shapes. Through the shape of a galaxy, you will get to know if it has formed stars or collided with another galaxy. Apart from the thrills of searching for new galaxies, you can also have one named after you. If you doubt this, then check out the galaxy-sized gas cloud called Hanny’s Voorwerp that is named after a videogame player who discovered it. So, ensure that while you play, you also observe your gaming environment for any odd or weird objects. Who knows, the next galaxy discovery could be bearing your name.
  • By aiding marine biologists: Have you ever wanted to scuba dive and swim with the whales? Well, you can do that from the comfort of your couch. There are games that enlist you as a marine biologist to help in the study of whale calls. All you have to do is listen to the recordings of whales from around the globe and then try to link the voices with other potential matches. Once you get a match, it will be stored for future analysis. This simple work is expected to help marine biologists get more info about whales including the size of their repertoire. Moreover, they could determine if the whales have accents which could be a sign of culture or intelligence.
  • By protecting our forests: Deforestation is a huge problem in our world today. Governments all around the world are setting up huge funds to protect the forests from dying out. You too could contribute your quota in this fight. In a game called Ora, you are placed in charge of a plot in a New Zealand forest that you have to protect from possums. To achieve this, you have the options of setting traps, flying aerial operations to plant toxic traps, or creating sanctuaries. At the end, scientists will then select the best strategies and apply them to the real New Zealand forests that are being threatened by these possums.
  • By eradicating hunger: The world’s population is growing in leaps and bounds. Researchers have projected it to reach 10.9billion by the year 2100. However, the current agricultural programs cannot sustain this explosion. If you are worried about this, why not be a part of those developing the first ever global crop map. This map is expected to monitor crops severely affected by droughts, plan for global food security, and identify gaps in harvest yield. Besides, there are games that offer you the chance to go through satellite images of the earth and search for arable land. The more lands you discover, the higher your score increases, and the closer the world gets to eradicating hunger from its shores.


With the advent of video games that can solve real life issues, you too could be a citizen-scientist. So, if you have ever wanted a reason to justify your addiction to video games, the lists we have given above could serve that purpose. A little warning though, those games are highly addictive.

Photo Credit: Huffingtonpost