New Game Designed to EVOKE a Better World

BlogHer Original Post

Game designer Jane McGonigal wants you to help solve the world's most serious problems - by playing a game. It's a game she designed, called EVOKE, that is designed to enlist thousands of gamers around the world to collaborate online to devise solutions to hunger, water security, education and other serious problems. The game started March 3, but players can join at any time. Those who complete the series of 10 challenges have a chance to earn scholarships and mentorships to help bring their social innovation ideas to life. Here's the trailer:

EVOKE trailer (a new online game) from Alchemy on Vimeo.

McGonigal,  the Director of Research and Game Development at the Institute for the Future, has been designing what she calls "alternate reality" games that address real problems for some time now.  Her games often start with a scenario based on a real-world challenge, and then asks players to respond online via blogs, emails, videos and twitter as if the scenario was real. The challenges can be as whimsical  as her "cookie-rolling" art project,  as personal as the game she made up to help her recover from a concussion, and as urgent as the threat of global warming. She's even got a game to get computer geeks and couch potatoes exercising.

Her 2007 game, World Without Oil, got more than 1800 players in 12 countries to imagine the consequences of a global oil shock. The key, McGonigal often said in their videos and speeches, is that "alternate reality is not  role play -- it's real play." McGonigal said participants in the World Without Oil simulation reported that they changed their energy consumption habits as they played the game:

McGonigal argues that massive multiplayer online games such as World of Warcraft help players develop skills -- such as the ability to collaborate, to concentrate, and to persist despite obstacles -- that transfer well to attacking social problems. She made that case last month at a well-received that's running on the TED.com website:

Megan at IdeaSchema said McGonigal's ideas "floored" her:

"...I thought the gamer needed to be taken out of the game (at least for a little while) and put into the world, to learn to apply the same skills there. It had never occurred to me that the world should simply be… the game."

KS, a commenter on Treehugger's post about Evoke talked about what it's like to play the game:

"[Evoke] is an amazing experience that challenges the way you think. It can inspire you to do and think of new ways of doing things we are all trying to accomplish."

Having seen how invested serious gamers can become in fantasy worlds such as World of Warcraft, I think McGonigal's idea has definite potential. Are you playing any of McGonigal's games? In and interview with WorldChanging.org McGonigal spoke of the kind of work she is doing as a moral imperative for the gaming industry:

"The commercial gaming industry is our innovation lab. By making games purely for entertainment, we learn more about how to make people happy and how to develop these superpowers.

"But if you don’t do something real with these powers, it’s a waste. If we’re not developing games that use all that insight and all that powerful technology for good, it’s a big, tragic waste."

Do you see gaming as a path to building a better world?

Kim Pearson
BlogHer Contributing Editor|KimPearson.net|

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