Building a best-case scenario future through video gaming

Jane McGonigal's new massive multiplayer video game Evoke attempts to use alternate reality to create the best-case scenario future.

Thanks to game designer Jane McGonigal, I might have found a new MMORPG called Evoke to play in my free time. But I won't be wasting my time in this alternate reality; instead, Evoke players will spend 10 weeks working to solve real-world problems with creativity and collaboration.

McGonigal has a gift for seeing everything in life as a potential game. When a concussion turned into several months of recovery, she created a video game with real-life aspects to help her get and feel better. As we are faced with a reality that involves an oil shortage, McGonigal created World Without Oil, an MMORPG in which players spent 32 weeks imagining an oil crisis and actively finding solutions in the real world. This isn't just massive multiplayer online role playing-- this is real-life collaboration that encourages resourcefulness and solutions.

McGonigal's theory that people play MMORPGs in order to be part of a larger collective that allows us to simultaneously be part of a group and a hero translates well into games that have a real-world component. Unlike World of Warcraft, McGonigal's games cause players to find solutions in life and translate them into the game by various forms of media such as videos, photos, and blogs. The game world takes on a life of its own as gamers work to create the best, most convincing solutions and use media to spread the word.

Evoke players will spend 10 weeks from March 3, 2010 to May 12, 2010 solving the social problems that are plaguing Africa and other parts of the world. Players will tackle hunger, poverty, water security, human rights, disaster relief, healthcare, education, sustainable energy, and social conflict, while learning collaboration, entrepreneurship, resourcefulness, knowledge networking, and sustainability. McGonigal is quick to point out that Evoke also teaches courage -- an aspect of other MMORPGs that keeps gamers invested, as modern life offers few opportunities for courageousness.

There will be a new mission and quest each week when the game is live. (One week isn't much time to solve important issues that are already plaguing the planet.) Gamers who succeed in completing all 10 missions and all 10 quests will receive the World Bank Institute Certified Social Innovator, Class of 2010 recognition. They will also have the knowledge that they have helped solve critical issues, as the World Bank Institute is using Evoke to help find innovative, creative solutions for these very real problems. A decade from now, gamers who completed Evoke will also be able to know if they succeeded in helping to bring about the best-case scenario future.

This MMORPG will surely keep my interest all the way through to the end. Even if I don't play, I'll definitely watch the progress and the outcome of Evoke.

Check out the trailer for Evoke.

EVOKE trailer (a new online game) from Alchemy on Vimeo.

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By Nicole Nash

Nicole Bremer Nash is Director of Content and Social Media for HuTerra, where she uses SEO and social media to promote charitable organizations in their community-building and fundraising efforts. She enjoys volunteering, arts and crafts, and conduct...