With Facebook, MySpace, and similar sites experiencing unprecedented popularity, gamers have started tapping into the power of social networks. "Social networking is a game in and of itself," explained Jennifer Pahlka, co-chair of the Web 2.0 Expo in San Francisco. One example reported by BBC News is Mytopia.com, a site that lets users play Soduku, hearts, backgammon, and other games over MySpace and Facebook. Mytopia.com co-creator Guy Ben-Artzi says that playing these games over social networking sites with friends makes gaming more meaningful.
Expanding the definition of social networking, Gamelayers, currently being developed, is experimenting with turning the entire web into a gaming platform. Dubbed a PMOG (passively multiplayer online game), Technology Review reports that players download a tool bar onto their browsers, allowing them to participate in an online scavenger hunt through the web. Participants can leave gifts and popups, and send instant messages with other participants as they search the web on themed missions. As an example, Gamelyayers’ CEO says that Warner Brothers could create a Batman-themed mission to promote the new superhero movie.
If promoting the new Hollywood blockbuster doesn’t fit your idea of “meaningful,” researchers at the University of Washington have created a game that could eventually lead to a cure for HIV, according to ScienceDaily. The game Foldit creates a competition out of protein folding, a process of shaping biological building blocks that plays a crucial role in the human immune system. “There are too many possibilities [of protein shapes] for the computer to go through every possible one,” said David Baker, one of the game’s creators. Instead of relying on the computer, the game invites people to tap their intuition and come up with creative solutions for protein shapes. The goal, according to Baker, is “to use the brain power of people all around the world to advance biomedical research.”