Want to help researchers understand and find a vaccine for the coronavirus? Help them out by playing this video game.
Foldit is a free puzzle game that tasks players with folding protein chains to change the way they behave. It was originally created by developers at the University of Washington in 2008 to crowd-source potential cures for diseases like Alzheimer’s and HIV/AIDS, but a new coronavirus puzzle was added this week. Players will need to create or modify proteins that can bind to one of the coronavirus “spike proteins” that would then prevent it from infecting human cells and replicating.
Despite its more technical and research-focused origins, Foldit is pretty simple to play—you can even ignore all the medical and science jargon and just focus on moving the structure around and earning points. All you do is click a section of the protein and drag it to change its shape as try and match whatever the puzzle’s goal is. Foldit awards the player points based on efficiency and effectiveness, and tracks their results with an in-game scoreboard.
The University of Washington says it will test out the most effective solutions to the coronavirus puzzle as possible real-world cures for COVID-19. It’s a long shot, but it’s not unprecedented. PCGamer notes that Foldit players helped researchers decode the AIDS virus in 2011—something that vexed scientists for years.
Foldit is available for free on Windows, Mac, and Linux. You can download it here.