Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Online Gaming Inspires Innovation

Almost 20,000 people played and completed a World Bank Institute funded interactive game over a 10-week period this spring, called EVOKE, centered around discovering solutions for real world problems such as environmental degradation, lack of food, water scarcity, poverty and violence. Unlike other alternate reality games, gamers in EVOKE earn points by completing real-world tasks such as volunteering, researching an issue, or developing solutions for a real world problem. They then submit evidence of their work in a picture, video or blog form which is then reviewed by fellow gamers who can award them further power-ups in categories like creativity, collaboration, sustainability and courage.

Urgent Evoke was created by Jane McGonigal from the Institute for the Future. McGonigal wrote her thesis concluding that if people played more addictive games, like World of Warcraft, and learned problem solving skills that could be applied to the real world, our society would be better equipped to handle large-scale problems. She has developed multiple games that take the addictive nature of gaming and combine it with games that require people to make real world impacts.

The game was targeted towards people in Africa and hopes to inspire further innovation in poorer countries. Many people argued that internet access isn't widespread enough to do so. However, the game could also be accessed on cell phones and ended up being very successful worldwide. People from 150 countries registered to play and submitted over 23,500 blog posts, 4,700 photos and over 1,500 videos highlighting challenges and solutions to the development issues featured each week. The World Bank institute launched an ad campaign in South Africa to encourage people to play, and funded the project with $500,000.

The winners of the game will be mentored by business leaders and experienced social innovators and given seed funding to further develop their concepts. A summit of the games most innovative players will be held in September, 2010 in Washington DC to celebrate the achievements of the EVOKE class of 2010, and to discuss the future of EVOKE. The World Bank Institute hopes to sponsor an Arabic version of the game next year, as well as a sequel to the original.

- Clara Hill

SOURCE: "Online game seeks to inspire Africa" - CNN, "Jane McGonigal: Gaming can make a better world" - TED, WBI's Online Game, EVOKE, engages nearly 20,000 in 10 weeks" - World Bank Institute