Here at MMOGames, we are completely enamoured with Massively Multiplayer Online Science (MMOS) and its potential to turn our favourite hobby into a venture for good. In the previous entries in this special micro-series about crowdsourced science in multiplayer games, we explored the myriad benefits for players, knowledge, and humanity. On top of the lifesaving research itself, these benefits include the advancement of scientific progress, literacy, and empowerment.
The advantages of game-integrated crowd-science also extend to the game studios. But we don’t want you to just take our word for it. In this final entry, we reached out to the world-leading game developers and directors who have taken part in order to discover their first-hand take on what game companies stand to gain from the integration of these projects. That meant continuing our interview with Attila Szantner, the CEO and Co-Founder of MMOS, and inviting the opinions of the directors of two participating AAA-game studios.
Gamers are demanding. Allocating resources to something not on players’ wish-lists is a big ask. With a few particularly exceptional studios aside, most game publishers will want to see measurable benefits for their own company too. Fortunately, those benefits are rife. The first of which is the effect integrating crowdsourced science has on the workforce.
“The benefits for publishers are significant. For starters, it’s fantastic for talent acquisition because the best young game designers want to contribute to something meaningful. It’s terrific for morale too; both employees and players love working on it and contributing to something with a remit beyond entertainment – it’s motivating.” Attila Szantner, CEO and Co-Founder, Massively Multiplayer Online Science
“Is Gaming Science's Secret Weapon?”
This motivation is clearly on display in the recently released mini documentary above which has a heavy focus on MMOS’s projects. Moreover, this sense of motivating pride can be witnessed in everyone involved in the process, even the Nobel Prize winner Michel Mayor himself whom the CCP directors affectionately described as “getting giddy” during a visit to their Icelandic studio. It has clearly affected the participating employees and directors on a personal level.
“For us personally, this is one of the coolest projects we’ve ever worked on. This was one of the first projects I got to work on at CCP, and I had dinner with Michel Mayor – how cool is that? Thirteen months later and he won the Nobel Prize. My only regret is not getting a photo with him.” Sæmundur Hermannsson, Brand Director, CCP Games
“I’m very proud and humbled by the effort that the community has put into this project, and I hope that we can continue to support and help.” Bergur Finnbogason, Creative Director, CCP Games
In a separate interview to our own, Bergur highlighted just how wide-reaching the impact has been, “It's become way more popular than I ever dreamed. We even have players coming to gatherings such as EVE Fanfest in Reykjavik and EVE Vegas, just to meet other Project Discovery players.”
These personal sentiments cross the Atlantic, from Switzerland to Iceland to Canada:
“Our industry should collectively pounce on this opportunity to improve our world. I’m super proud we did so through Borderlands 3.” Sébastien Caisse, Studio Head and Director of Operations, Gearbox Studio Québec
Attila himself is no exception:
“This project gave me the opportunity to meet so many amazing people. It’s been inspiring for me too. Friendships, seeing players talk about it, this is the most beautiful and humbling part of the experience to see that we’ve facilitated this.” Attila Szantner, CEO and Co-Founder, Massively Multiplayer Online Science
For game publishers, as intrinsically and instrumentally valuable as it is to have a motivated and satisfied team, players remain the priority. We asked our interviewees about crowdsourced science’s effects on the player-base and their thoughts were unanimously positive.
“There is amazing pride in the project amongst the players. It’s 100% the players that make it; if it weren’t for the players this project would never be. It’s a beautiful testament to something we always talk about – that we are just the janitors providing the tools for players to play in this sandbox. They take our tools, and they make the beauty that is Project Discovery. There is a huge amount of pride in it amongst the players. They’re excited to talk about it and learn about it. When we introduce a new idea, you see a huge spike from our players on archive pages about these nuanced scientific topics that they’d probably never considered before.” Bergur Finnbogason, Creative Director, CCP Games
“We’ve found it really reinvigorates player communities. This type of scientific output is important and unique, it reaches out and brings people in. We invite participants to play with the data and see the impact for themselves. People are grateful for the opportunity to be involved in scientific progress, and we’ve found that enthusiasm snowballs outwards in all directions, benefiting everyone – players start blogging about it, conducting interviews, adding Wikipedia pages. Which of course relates to one of the more obvious advantages – it’s great messaging and PR for games, just look at EVE Online’s Project Discovery Webby Award.” Attila Szantner, CEO and Co-Founder, Massively Multiplayer Online Science
Having spent a long time in dialogue with the directors in question, it’s beyond doubt that altruistic motivations played a key role in deciding to opt to integrate crowdsourced science. However, in addition to the positive effects on the team and players there is, as Attila noted, one patent advantage which would keep even the most corporate-minded of publishers happy. It’s fantastic PR.
“It’s less commercial and more marketing awareness, it’s generated a lot of exposure for us – brand awareness about the game – that obviously brings in new players. And moreover, it’s engagement for our current players. Project Discovery was perfect for a minigame so that’s how we positioned it. And from the players perspective, imagine playing a game and being able to say ‘Yes, through the game my friends and I are playing we’re helping to progress the search of exoplanets or mapping out the human protein atlas or helping to fight COVID.’” Sæmundur Hermannsson, CCP Games, Brand Director
“It was wonderfully reassuring to see just how many players and media organizations were enamoured by it. Especially from the general non-gaming media, there has been a huge amount of interest and positive publicity. And that’s not to mention the hardcore scientific media; my wife was initially baffled when I told her we were going to be in Nature – pretty much the most prestigious scientific journal in the world – and then she was double baffled when she heard we were actually going to make the cover.” Bergur Finnbogason, Creative Director, CCP Games
It would be all too easy to get lost in the marketing, branding and publicity benefits of citizen science. To pay fair dues to the amazing researchers, players, developers, and publishers who have made this dream of citizen science a reality, we’ll leave you with one final quote each from CCP's Bergur and Dr. Jérôme Waldispühl – one of the distinguished scientists driving MMOS’s successes.
“The COVID-19 project that we’re working on now will continue for some time at least. It’s an incredibly important project and the data that’s coming out of it is going to be instrumental for years to come. Just as we’re learning now with COVID and the Delta variant, this isn’t over. This isn’t the last SARs that we will need to deal with. So, the work our players are doing right now is going to be useful going forward with the next iteration. The way we’re processing data is also very applicable to other viruses and immune diseases such as cancer and HIV. So this platform that we’ve built is very valuable for other reasons as well, and there is a real opportunity to scale it.” Bergur Finnbogason, Creative Director, CCP Games
“Video games offer a fantastic opportunity to bring back science into the hands of the public. The efforts of CCP, Gearbox, and MMOS are absolutely instrumental to this endeavour. It shows that science can be fun and accessible to everyone, while simultaneously it helps to reinforce trust in the scientific process and open new opportunities and tools for researchers.” Dr. Jérôme Waldispühl, Associate Professor Computer Science, McGill University of Science
We hope you enjoyed this special three-part micro-series on crowdsourced citizen science in multiplayer gaming. If you have not yet read the first two entries, here’s part one “Save the World with MMO Gaming? No, Really. Meet Massively Multiplayer Online Science” and here’s part two “The Multiplayer Games Revolutionising Crowdsourced Scientific Discovery”.
We will be sure to be keeping a close eye on MMOS’s future developments in our weekly Feelgood Gaming Fridays segment, so stay tuned to our news page. And if this series has inspired you to check out some of the amazing citizen science gaming opportunities already available, there are few better places to start than Borderlands Science, Project Discovery, and MMOS. What are you waiting for? Go and game to save the world!
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