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Embassy of Time

Humanitarian Gamification: Designing a game to save the world?

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Some may remember that I got poked by private investors a year or so ago because of my GameDev blog. Well, it has finally yielded the first, minor project. And it's a bit of a challenge!

They want me to draw up a mockup of a game that essentially gamifies saving the world. A "game" in which players must llevel up territories, people and themselves in the real world, to progress in the game. Needless to say, it's sort of an MMO, but I have no idea what letters to add to that. MMOARG? MMONGO? (yes, I am sitting here making those sounds, now, too!). I jotted my first ideas down on my GameDev blog, but I would like to get a discussion going, somehow. I need to throw this ball around to get my head, literally, in the game!

So I ask the good people in here: What thoughts go through your head when I talk about a game that rewards players for asserting positive influences on the world around them? How could a game be designed to help improve the world? ANY idea is welcome!!!

Sorry it's a bit short, but my head is kinda spinning from this one...

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I like the idea! :)

I'd say, you'd need to start with the smallest things of the kind anybody can do.

Waste properly separated? Get an achievement! Water saved? Level up!

The key thing here needs to be that players want to become better, save even more energy and so on. For that, the "mmo" factor can really help as players would be able to compare their progress with their friends'.

Also, data would make it easier for people. Make it quick and easy for them to research. Where and how is product x produced? Are there light bulbs available that are more efficient than my current ones? Can I trust, my meat is not from maltreated animals? Oh you really checked? Cool, here's some exp for you!

This, of course, is just what first came to mind ^^

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Are you talking about essentially real world tasks, that the game binds together the 'players' and exchanges information to help them coordinate to achieve these tasks? It sounds a bit like how I'd imagine the freemasons to work.

Most of the time people are doing things for individual gain rather than working together for the common good of a community. A game (or website) that puts people together to achieve useful goals is a good thing to aim for. Although I'm a capitalist, I think it would be nice if 5 days a week people worked for themselves, but every other weekend they might get together to do some community projects. Or the unemployed, who are in some counties paid to sit on their backsides.

Of course how you quantify something as 'good' is up for debate. If you want to know how to manage an area you should pay attention to Ecology. Especially the concept of the carrying capacity. Strictly speaking, environmentally wise, the best thing a population can do, is to kill all the humans, or at least not have any children. That way the environment can return to nature, without pollution, and plants and animals can enjoy the world. Of course, we do not live in cut off communities. If some region gets rid of the population, and has a rich environment, other humans will invade the area and takeover.

Personally I would see improving the world for humans and animals and plants to be more of forming a better balance, with a far lower human population, and less reliance on fossil fuels and polluting processes. Good luck persuading most of the world's population that having 10 children is not their 'god given right', but I guess that's why we have wars and plagues.

Other positive things could include things like more environmentally friendly transport solutions, such as bicycle superhighway networks away from roads (perhaps with rain / wind shields), or cheap well designed low friction public transport such as monorail, or canals for slow bulk freight. Also highly insulated houses in cold areas to prevent senseless use of energy on heating.

I often think that the trouble in 1st world countries is that we have the money to do good things, but there are too many regulations preventing people from undertaking projects (you need planning permission, building regs etc etc). You are more likely to be able to build innovative community improvement projects in third world countries, where either the regulations don't exist, or you can pay off officials.

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On 2/17/2019 at 6:34 AM, Embassy of Time said:

What thoughts go through your head when I talk about a game that rewards players for asserting positive influences on the world around them? How could a game be designed to help improve the world?

The goal is too vague. First you need to decide on which way the world needs improving (or which way your game can help improve it).  Pollution? Global warming? Poverty? Racism? Religious extremism? Unsanitary living conditions? Starvation? War? One game can't address them all. Then what does your game accomplish - is it just awareness raising? Or should your game get people to donate, or volunteer? I recommend you look into Games For Change, a "movement and community of practice dedicated to using digital games for social change." gamesforchange.org

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6 hours ago, Tom Sloper said:

The goal is too vague. First you need to decide on which way the world needs improving (or which way your game can help improve it).  Pollution? Global warming? Poverty? Racism? Religious extremism? Unsanitary living conditions? Starvation? War? One game can't address them all. Then what does your game accomplish - is it just awareness raising? Or should your game get people to donate, or volunteer? I recommend you look into Games For Change, a "movement and community of practice dedicated to using digital games for social change." gamesforchange.org

All this is just me trying to sharpen ideas, nothing is set in stone. That said...

Goals: I think we're going for "living conditions", kind of a rags-to-riches deal, except aimed at improving the living conditions of communities (individuals and/or groups).

Accomplishing: Get players to actively help others improve their living conditions. Methods are secondary to the reaching out to others, if that makes sense?

Games for Change: Thanks, I'm totally on that now!!

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56 minutes ago, Embassy of Time said:

aimed at improving the living conditions of communities (individuals and/or groups).

We could help you with useful ideas if we had an idea what communities. Homeless encampments in L.A.? Refugees in northern Mexico? Persecuted outcasts in Myanmar or India? Poor farmers in Kenya? Coal miners in Appalachia?  I dread the answer "all of the above."

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That thing that strikes me is that it would likely have to be a very social design - something that connects people with those around them.  Unfortunately, that means you also need to deal with the potential problems that could come along with that -- privacy, public safety, etc.  Perhaps you could somehow leverage or build off one or more existing social media platforms? 

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45 minutes ago, jbadams said:

That thing that strikes me is that it would likely have to be a very social design - something that connects people with those around them.  Unfortunately, that means you also need to deal with the potential problems that could come along with that -- privacy, public safety, etc.  Perhaps you could somehow leverage or build off one or more existing social media platforms? 

Totally. The Social Media platform will likely be a watered down Facebook thing, to make it recognizable and easy to navigate. The privacy and safety points are in the back of my head, but until I have a working suggestion for the game itself, they make no sense trying to design, of course....

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10 hours ago, Tom Sloper said:

We could help you with useful ideas if we had an idea what communities. Homeless encampments in L.A.? Refugees in northern Mexico? Persecuted outcasts in Myanmar or India? Poor farmers in Kenya? Coal miners in Appalachia?  I dread the answer "all of the above."

In a perfect world, yeah, all of the above. But that's not realistic. The best answer is perhaps "the immediate community of a player". You help those around you, and it grows from there, with some of those you help teaming up with you to help others. E.g. you help a handful of kids with some learning through a learning (and testing) app, you help a homeless person you run into daily find a good place at a homeless shelter or even help him get back on his feet if possible. Small scale things, local. Or you may help someone somewhere help others, perhaps using some experience you have (like advising someone on how to help that homeless person find a good shelter and maybe get back on his feet). It's not a sword, but a thousand papercuts, if that phrase makes any sense here?

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4 hours ago, Embassy of Time said:

In a perfect world, yeah, all of the above. But that's not realistic. The best answer is perhaps "the immediate community of a player". You help those around you, and it grows from there

OK. That's a good focus. To get some ideas flowing, think of sayings or phrases other than the paper cuts thing. Like daily good deeds, or "paying it forward," or mountains from molehills. 

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