Folded up Streptococcal Protein Puzzle

Foldit: A Game that Helps Predict How Proteins Fold

By orbithunter | Orbit's Journal | 26 Mar 2020

What is Foldit?

Foldit is a citizen science computer game that lets players predict and design the structure of proteins. This is also commonly known as Protein Folding. Knowing the structure of a protein, or the way the protein will fold is important because it dictates the function of the protein. Although protein folding happens naturally most of the time in nature, it is very hard to predict computationally because you have to consider all the interactions of all the molecules in the protein chain. This has been done through supercomputers and distributed computing platforms and has been effective in predicting protein shape. 

Illustration of the process of protein folding

Foldit let human players predict protein shape or design them by playing the game. By integrating humans' pattern-recognition and puzzle-solving abilities, the hope is that we can discover new strategies that we can teach to existing computers so they can fold faster.


How do I Participate?

In order to play the game, you must first create an account on their website. You must also download the game itself. It is available for Windows, OSX, and Linux. You can visit the site here: The objective of the game is to maximize your score. The higher the score, the higher the chance that the configuration you created is the actual shape the protein will fold into.

Once you successfully download the game and log in, you will be brought to solve the Intro Puzzles. These puzzles serve as a game tutorial so I suggest you don't skip them. You can refer to the video if you are stuck with one of the puzzles.


After you finish the intro puzzles, you can now participate in solving actual puzzles. You can these by clicking "Science Puzzles" on the main menu.

Foldit Main Menu



After clicking, you will see something like this. They currently have a coronavirus puzzle ongoing which aims to create a good binder for the coronavirus binding protein so it will not be able to infect human cells. They also have other puzzles with you can try.


Science Puzzles in Foldit


This is a sample of what it looks like inside the game. The screenshot below is my proposed design for the binder, although it still needs some work. The light brown is the protein from the coronavirus receptor and the green one is my design. You can also see that the highest score is around 15,000 points.

Coronavirus Binding Puzzle 4 UI


This can be difficult at first and there is a learning curve into it. I myself just started playing and still learning how to play better. The video below particularly helped me understand how to do the puzzle. I suggest you watch it for some inspiration.




I really hope you like this blog post. If you are interested in playing games related to science, you can check Stall Catchers. It is also a citizen science game that tries to discover the link between Alzheimer's disease and "Stalls" in blood vessels. I have also created a list of crowdsourcing projects you can try for yourself. Thank you for your time. :)


Update (03/28/'20): The Coronavirus Puzzle posted is already over. They are replaced by these two puzzles: Coronavirus Binder Design: Round 5 and Coronavirus ORF6 Prediction. You can check them if you are interested in helping.

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