EVE Online players have helped produce over 330 years of blood cell research for scientists working against the COVID-19 virus over a year.
Over the past year, EVE Online players have been contributing to the fight against COVID-19, thanks to an in-game initiative that has collected millions of samples for scientific research. Through this initiative, named Project Discovery, EVE Online players have contributed over 330 years of work, helping real-world scientists learn more about the virus and saving valuable time and resources.
EVE Online is a sci-fi MMORPG where players can participate in space-based piracy, mining, trading, planetary exploration, combat and trading. EVE Online is known for being a massively complex game, with over 7,800 star systems and an ongoing economy and warfare run entirely by players. The game has been running on a single server since May 2003, with over 500,000 active subscribers as of 2013.
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According to IGN, Project Discovery has now managed to pull together data on COVID-19 which would have taken scientists over 330.69 years to do. Over the past year, 327,000 players have completed 1.37 million analysis tasks in-game, involving mini-games on the visualization of human cell samples, for in-game currency. These mini-games were originally submitted to help form a Human Protein Atlas from hundreds of thousands of submissions for scientific research, which was then changed to help research COVID-19. This research helped with the process of studying the effects of COVID-19 on human blood cells, with players using a tracing tool to highlight any clusters they see in the blood cells.
In the interview with IGN, EVE Online Creative Director Bergur Finnbogason and Massively Multiplayer Online Science CEO and co-founder Attila Szantner thought of using the manpower of an MMORPG to taken on this kind of task after seeing citizen science projects and the potential the internet held. In order to incentivize players to participate, in-game rewards were distributed for accurate identifications of blood cells, earning ISK which can be used throughout EVE Online. The mini-game was designed to be easy for any player to interact with, while still completing the work that the scientists needed. Adding a ranking system to the mini-game also incentivized competition between players, unlocking higher tier rewards at higher ranks that players could work towards all while contributing to real-world scientific research.
These kinds of crowdsourcing projects may be the future of solving issues with massive amounts of manpower and cutting down on time in the future, which is essentially what an MMORPG is – except usually players work towards slaying bosses and clearing raids. Having such an enormous pool of players to use in such a way could be the solution the next time the world is in a crisis such as COVID-19, as long as the in-game rewards are worth the effort.
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