Imagine if the decisions we made while playing video or online games had the potential to impact the world around us. I’m not talking about all of you who just cringed because you play Grand Theft Auto. I mean, what if you could play a game that asked you to fight real world monsters, such as a lack of clean water, poverty and food scarcity?
Game designer Jane McGonigal expects that the answer will be: “I would do it!” when she launches Urgent Evoke tomorrow.
The game, which is free, centers around an unknown character, who sends out messages every episode (once a week) for 10 weeks to the players asking them for help. Each message will focus on one issue, such as famine, and players will earn points by accepting and completing challenges. Unlike other games, Evoke players have to complete the challenges in real life (in the case of famine, working at a soup kitchen would suffice, for example.) and post evidence of their work on the Evoke website. Also, players will have the ability to reward each other with “power-ups” for things such as sustainability and creativity and, also, mentor each other. The players with the most points at the end of the game win and McGonigal isn’t just giving out pats on the back. Winners will receive internships, scholarships and even seed money.
While it is open to everyone, McGonigal says her purpose for creating the game was to inspire hope in the people of Africa, where feelings of empowerment are often nonexistent. There are hundreds of people in Africa already signed up to play. Although internet access is not widespread across the continent, the game can be played via SMS text messaging or on mobile phones that use Opera Mini, an operating system that is popular around Africa. Bob Hawkins, senior education specialist with the World Bank Institute, believes in McGonigal’s project so much so that his international development group funded it to the tune of $500,000.
At the end, McGonigal plans to measure the success of the game through surveys to determine whether people stuck with it and what long-term changes they made in their real lives. So, when it comes to impacting the world around you a little at a time, the question is…
Are you game?
For more info or to sign up for the game, visit the Evoke website.