This is not the first story of its kind:
AIDS researchers struggling to unlock the structure of a key enzyme received a helping hand from an unlikley source: thousands of amateurs playing an Internet game called Foldit.
By using a game developed by researchers at the University of Washington, players were able to come up with a viable structure for a protein that is crucial to the early development of AIDS . Foldit allows users to assemble potential proteins out of different molecular building blocks, and video game players ended up accomplishing what scientists could not.
"People have spatial reasoning skills, something computers are not yet good at," Seth Cooper, a University of Washington computer scientist who is Foldit's lead designer and developer, said in a news release. "Games provide a framework for bringing together the strengths of computers and humans."
This is exactly the sort of application of games that Jane McGonigal talks about in her fascinating book, 'Reality is Broken' and her various TED talks.