We’ve all heard the adage “do what you love and the money will follow.” But what about students who only seem to love video games?
Most educators don’t need to be told that video games are popular with students – that would be a classic example of stating the obvious. But the world of video games has expanded beyond what the stereotypes suggest. Did you know that video games are actually helping medical scientists?
Foldit is an online game that asks players to solve complex puzzles — just like many other popular games. The difference is that these problems represent real-life puzzles faced by medical research scientists: how certain proteins are folded. By figuring out the structure of a protein, researchers can determine its function and learn how to target it with drugs or other interventions, and eventually help cure diseases. But discovering how it is folded can be difficult and time-consuming. Enter the video gamers.
People playing the games don’t necessarily understand the function behind the puzzles: they’re focusing on solving it, for example, by discovering the structure of a specific protein. It’s a puzzle — like any other game.
These online gamers figured out the structure of an enzyme involved in the reproduction of the AIDS virus. Researchers had been working on a solution for 10 years!
This story shows the diversity of the video-game world. Many students write in to XAP asking about video game careers. As the gaming industry grows and extends its reach, there are opportunities developing and testing games. Writers and musicians are also discovering new markets in the gaming world. And, of course, artists bring it all together.
Artists, musicians, writers and medical discoveries… clearly not all video game fanatics are teenage boys lying on their couches. In fact, one recent study found that 52 percent of gamers are female -so the industry is pushing to hire more women.
No matter which aspect of gaming interests a student, all of the people we interviewed for our articles on video gaming agreed that education is important. This can be a competitive field, so having the latest skills and a diverse portfolio will help them get ahead. Students need to put their games aside when they enter the classroom!