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Online games to save the world?

by on March 9, 2010

Renown game designer, Jane McGonigal, spoke about the potential games have to solve big, real-life social issues at TED this year.  I discovered Jane a little over a year ago and took careful note.  Not only is she a game designer (my boyfriend’s a game designer), she’s a world-changing activist that’s gotten some great recognition.  Among her accolades:

  • MIT Technology Review: “Top 35 innovators changing the world through technology”
  • Gamasutra: “20 Most Important Women in Videogaming”
  • Fast Company: “Top 100 Creative People in Business” in 2009
  • Business Week: “Top Ten Innovators to Watch for 2009″
  • Harvard Business Review: “Top 20 Breakthrough Ideas of 2008”

Amy Wilson at Talented Apps has as a nice summary of her talk.  It got  me chomping at the bit to get my hands, er, eyes on her talk.  When I asked TED via Twitter when it would be available, they responded saying, “We’re editing talks from #TED 2010 now and will be posting for months to come. Can’t wait to share!” It looks like it might be a little while.  So how can playing games help save the world?  Amy summarizes Jane’s talk:

  • Urgent optimisim – a belief that you will ultimately be successful, even if you experience many failures.
  • Social fabric – a sense of trust that others will help you.
  • Blissful productivity – a desire to work hard and purposefully.
  • Epic meaning – an understanding that one is individually capable of changing the world.

Jane liked Amy’s recap and pointed her readers to Evoke, the new game she’s launching:

…the world-changing game we’re launching on March 3 is EVOKE, and you can register/play at

EVOKE is designed to teach anyone, anywhere in the world — especially young people in sub-Saharan African — how to start tackling the world’s most urgent problems, like hunger, poverty, climate change, pandemic, and human rights. It’s free to play and runs for 10 weeks; we’ll give scholarships, mentorships and other awards to top players at the end of the game to help them further their social innovation efforts.

Gaming. World-changing indeed.


From → Good to Know

  1. Deepti permalink

    This is awesome.
    As you have mentioned, Jane’s plan is to harness this expertise to start solving the toughest world problems. She is currently creating online games such as “I Love Bees”, “World without Oil” and “Save the World.”
    These kind of games can inculcate a sense of responsibility among the children. It will make there analytical minds think in the direction of solving these problems. I am surprisingly interested to find out how this works out.

  2. gr8 site thanks alot my friend bookmarkd!

  3. Colin Anderson permalink

    I’ve thought about something similar before. Not exactly about creating games that are transparently about real-world accomplishment, but about leveraging the willingness of, say, World of Warcraft players to do meaningless, tedious and repetitive tasks. If you took an MMO like that one, and replaced all the quests with modular pieces of real-world work… maybe coding problems, or data operations, or real-world logistical issues. It would be tricky to implement, and very hard to package in an appealing way. But there might be something there.

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