Yes, ordinary people, non-scientist can contribute to science by playing a game
Joe Palca, of NPR, recorded a great story on how people playing games can contribute to science and learning. In the first half of the story, He plays and describes the game EyeWire, in which you can contribute to brain research and learn about the nerves of the eye. In the second half of the story he describes the game Foldit, in which you can contribute to Scientists understanding of how proteins fold and learn about protein folding yourself.
“People can get pretty addicted to computer games. By some estimates, residents of planet Earth spend 3 billion hours per week playing them. Now some scientists are hoping to make use of all that human capital and harness it for a good cause.
Right now I’m at the novice level of a game called EyeWire, trying to color in a nerve cell in a cartoon drawing of a slice of tissue. EyeWire is designed to solve a real science problem — it aims to chart the billions of nerve connections in the brain.”
“This image represents a chunk, or “cube,” of brain. Each different color represents a different neuron, and the goal of the EyeWire game is to figure out how these tangled neurons connect to each other. Players look at a slice from this cube and try to identify the boundaries of each cell. It isn’t easy, and it takes practice. You can try it for yourself at eyewire.org.”
Link to text and audio from NPR here;