At the Social Media Club of Fort Worth last night, I heard about an on-line game that is being used to solve real world problems such as hunger, lack of clean water, human rights abuses and more. The game is called EVOKE or Urgent Evoke. Lest you discount this as a bunch of hype, The World Bank Institute is behind it. The game’s creative director is “alternate reality” pioneer, Dr. Jane McGonigal, who has some pretty significant credentials of her own.
The material for last night’s presentation came from a South By Southwest (SXSW) presentation by McGonigal (who adds game researcher and author to her list of job titles) which was broadly hailed as one of the highlights of the 2011 conference. It seems a bit strange at first to consider something as frivolous as an on-line games being used to find solutions to serious, life threatening problems but what are so many games about but solving life threatening situations?
The gaming industry has been growing faster than the movie industry in the past several years with the genre of “serious games” mushrooming in recent years. A number of “serious games” have been developed in the fields of education, business, health, politics, engineering, defense, etc.
EVOKE emerged from discussions with universities in Africa who were searching for ways to engage students in real world problems, collaborating with others globally, to develop capacities for creativity, innovation, and entrepreneurial action. Many believe this will be the engine for job creation.
McGonigal debuted the game at the 2010 TED conference in Long Beach, California. As she describes the game, “An evoke is an urgent call to innovation. When we evoke, we look for creative solutions. We use whatever resources we have. We get as many people involved as possible. We take risks. We come up with ideas that have never been tried before. That’s what we’re asking players to do in this online game. To learn how to tackle the world’s toughest problems with creativity, courage, resourcefulness and collaboration.”
“EVOKE helps players learn 21st century skills to become the social innovators who shape the future,” said Robert Hawkins, a Senior Education Specialist at the World Bank Institute, and Executive Producer for the game. “Top players will also earn real-world honors and rewards, namely mentorships with experienced social innovators and business leaders, and scholarships to share their vision for the future at an EVOKE Summit to be held in Washington DC.”
The game was first launched on March 3, 2010. Players had to pre-register and were given 10 problems to solve, one a week, during the initial 10 week cycle. Over 4,000 participants from more than 120 countries and territories pre-registered to take the challenge.
Stay with me on this one. There is plenty of method to this madness….and applicability to people who are looking for that next great job. We will get into McGonigal’s logic in a future post. She suffered a serious brain injury in 2009, and is the case with so many life changing events, she discovered something. There are real benefits to playing games to solve problems.
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