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The use of games in citizen science is growing, but can create tension as gaming and science can be seen as incompatible areas of activity. For example, the motivations for winning a game and scientific pursuit of knowledge may be seen as contrary. Over a one-year period, we conducted a virtual ethnographic study of the public forums of two online citizen science projects, Foldit and Galazy Zoo. The first where gaming is an explicit design feature and the second where it is not. The aim was to give a nuanced view of how participants topicalize and respond to tensions between gaming and science. Thematic analysis of discussion forum posts suggests that participants in the two projects respond differently to the tension. By unpacking participant responses to the tension between games and science, our study highlights that citizen science projects using games are not just about fun. To enrol and retain volunteers, our findings suggest that they must also recognize and manage the implicit normative scientific ideals that participants bring with them to a project.
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