I’ve posted before about Foldit, where you solve puzzles for science. Here are two new computer games that you can play to help science advance. The first is Play to Cure: Genes in Space, a new mobile game from Cancer Research UK, hoping to use the collective power of thousands of people to speed up cancer research. The above video gives a brief overview of what the game is about, with some of the science behind the game being found here. I’ve downloaded it and played it, and it’s actually really addictive! The fact that you’re helping advance cancer research is also a big plus.
As well as the mobile game Play to Cure: Genes in Space, there is another computer game out there which allows you to take control of an actual biochemistry lab, and remotely carry out real experiments to verify their predictions of how RNA molecules fold. This game is called EteRNA.
“By playing EteRNA, you will participate in creating the first large-scale library of synthetic RNA designs. Your efforts will help reveal new principles for designing RNA-based switches and nanomachines — new systems for seeking and eventually controlling living cells and disease-causing viruses. By interacting with thousands of players and learning from real experimental feedback, you will be pioneering a completely new way to do science. Join the global laboratory!” (EteRNA – About)
It’s an interesting game, again rather addictive, though it can be rather frustrating when your RNA doesn’t fold up how you want it to! You also find yourself learning a lot about how RNA folds, and what makes a good pairing. Many puzzles impose restrictions, such as only allowing a certain number of GC pairs (which are the strongest pairs), and forcing you to have a minimum number of GU pairs. There’s a chat box functionality too, so if you get stuck, you can always ask for help from some of the experts.
I highly recommend giving both games a go. You know, for science. Onwards!