Solving Difficult Problems with Video Games

Lecture / Panel
For NYU Community

Speaker:  Seth Cooper, University of Washington


Rather than solving difficult problems with a purely computational approach, combining humans and computers can provide a means for solving problems neither could solve alone. Video games provide a compelling framework for this approach: they are a natural space for problem solving and can foster the engagement necessary for people to make a contribution. I will describe the challenges of mapping real-world problems onto games and ways to address these challenges. As a primary example I will discuss Foldit, an online game where players help scientists understand protein structures and functions. Foldit has had over 300,000 players over the last five years and contributed to several scientific discoveries through gameplay. I will also discuss future applications and problem domains for video games.


Seth Cooper is the Creative Director of the Center for Game Science at the Computer Science and Engineering department at the University of Washington, where he earned his PhD. He is interested in using video games to solve difficult real world problems. He is the chief architect and lead designer of Foldit, a video game that has allowed hundreds of thousands of players to
contribute to biochemical scientific research. He is currently working on games with applications in a variety of fields, from education to nanotechnology.He has also developed game technologies for real-time crowd simulation and character control.