It’s not too often that you find a doctor (PhD) presenting the case that in order to save the world, we all need to be playing bigger and better video games, and more often. However, this past February, that’s exactly the case that Dr. Jane McGonigal, PhD. argued at the TED 2010 talk.
McGonigal is the director of Game Research and Design at the Palo Alto, CA based Institute of the Future. She says that currently, around three billion hours per week are devoted to online gaming. However, according to McGonigal, if the world wishes to survive well into the next century, that figure needs to be closer to the 21 billion hours mark.
“If we want to solve the problems of poverty, hunger and climate change, global conflict and obesity, we need to aspire to play games online for at least 21 billion hours a week by the end of the next decade,” says McGonigal.
The concept is simple enough: Humans are innately smart beings, and when left to their own devices, they will almost always find a solution to any problem presented to them. Using this given, McGonigal sees gamers as a, “human resource that we can use to do real-world work.” She believes that one of the best plans for tackling real-world problems is by utilizing the experience that gamers have already gathered. “In the best designed games, our human experience is optimized we have important work to do, we’re surrounded by potential collaborators, and we learn quickly and in a low-risk environment.”
Putting this theory to the test, McGonigal’s EVOKE project is already underway. “If you have a problem, and you can’t solve it alone, evoke it,” is the strapline for the EVOKE project, one that seeks to address some of the world’s most pressing issues in a creative ‘gaming’ environment. Commissioned by the World Bank Institute, the game focuses on a collaborative problem solving environment where players accomplish their missions through blog posts, photos, and video. Throughout the process, fellow players offer encouragement, as well as extra game powers – courage, creativity, resourcefulness, local insight, etc.
Set inside a graphic novel in 2020, EVOKE is based around a secret group of African problem solvers. The game kicked off on March 3rd, and runs through until May 12th. Those that complete the 10 challenges will become certified by the World Bank Institute as one of the year’s social innovators. This certification will not only give players bragging rights, but also allow them to compete for online mentorships, as well as seed money for real-world projects. Top EVOKE players will also be invited to the EVOKE summit to be held in Washington, D.C.