Volunteer Computing Games: Merging Online Casual Gaming with Volunteer Computing

Charles Cusack, Evan Peck and Maria Riolo


We describe volunteer computing games, a new paradigm for computing which merges volunteer computing and online casual games. In volunteer computing, the main goal is to harness the computational power of many users' computers to solve a large computational problem. Unfortunately, participants in volunteer computing come from a very limited demographic--primarily middle-aged male computer experts. Since casual games have an almost universal appeal and, consequentially, a broad player base, we argue that volunteer computing games will significantly impact volunteer computing efforts by attracting and retaining more users.

We describe one framework for implementing volunteer computing games to solve problems whose solution space can be modeled as a search tree. Using our prototype game as an example, we discuss general design principles that are of particular importance with volunteer computing games. We argue that the full power of volunteer computing games occurs when human computation is added to the mix. An ideal volunteer computing game will attract men and women of all ages and harness the computing power of both the users and their computers. We conclude with a very brief discussion of volunteer computing within Massively Multiplayer Online Games (MMOGs).