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Final Stage Boss Battle with Infant Mortality
March 4, 2010 1:32 PM   Subscribe

Ever wondered what would happen if all those people playing Farmville and Mafia Wars were trying to save the world instead? Enter Urgent Evoke, "a ten week crash course in changing the world," designed by Jane McGonigal (who previously designed World without Oil) for the World Bank Institute. Players take on tasks like the UN Millennium Development Goals. Wanna play?

Your first assignment is to read this.
posted by anotherpanacea (37 comments total) 14 users marked this as a favorite

 
Oh, whoah, whoah. There's reading involved?
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 1:35 PM on March 4, 2010 [3 favorites]


I think it's crazy that all those pointless Facebook games aren't crowdsourcing tasks. Someone needs to come up with a Facebook RPG where you gain levels by performing pattern recognition tasks and make a bazillion.
posted by mek at 1:36 PM on March 4, 2010 [2 favorites]


Oh, whoah, whoah. There's reading involved?

It gets worse. You have to get out in the world and do something. Something real and physical! I know, how does the real world compare to virtual worlds where I'm already doing great things?
posted by filthy light thief at 1:42 PM on March 4, 2010


Worst of all: There is no one way to win this game.
posted by filthy light thief at 1:43 PM on March 4, 2010


... because you're playing with The World Bank!
posted by filthy light thief at 1:45 PM on March 4, 2010 [3 favorites]


filthy light thief What a curious game, it seems the only winning move is to not play.
posted by ExitPursuedByBear at 1:45 PM on March 4, 2010 [2 favorites]


If I can't depopulate entire continents it's just not fun.
posted by aramaic at 1:56 PM on March 4, 2010


A curious game. It seems the only way to win is not to play...
posted by fuq at 2:06 PM on March 4, 2010


ExitPursuedByBear wins.
posted by fuq at 2:07 PM on March 4, 2010


Where's QuestHelper when you need it.
posted by june made him a gemini at 2:07 PM on March 4, 2010


No, it's: "A strange game. The only winning move is not to play."
Trust me, I watched that movie over and over when I was a kid. Well, you don't have to trust me.

How about a nice game of chess?
posted by demiurge at 2:12 PM on March 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


I can't wait for naftaville.
posted by Betty_effn_White at 2:19 PM on March 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


Wow demiurge... thank you for that link... I'm 8 again. :)
posted by ExitPursuedByBear at 2:25 PM on March 4, 2010


Playing a game to save the world: sounds like Ender's Game, eh? (Contains spoilers for those who haven't read it.)
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 2:33 PM on March 4, 2010


Everyone reading this thread just lost the game.

wait, what? that's something else? oh.
posted by hippybear at 2:45 PM on March 4, 2010


The arrogance is simply mind-boggling. Oh, yeah, let me learn about saving the world while the Flash megaman clone is loading in another tab.

There are so many problematic assumptions built into this that I almost don't know where to begin. The world is not a thing that can be "saved". It's utterly childish thinking. You can't solve the problems that are targeted by the MDGs without addressing social issues that took centuries for Western countries to work out; why do we expect developing nations to do it so much faster? This is so ludicrously misconceived that I find it offensive.

To quote: Bob Hawkins, senior education specialist with the World Bank Institute, said one big reason people in African countries aren't as entrepreneurial and innovative as those in the West is that they don't feel as empowered to create change.

That's an accurate perception on their part. They are not empowered. They are the losers in the global regime.
posted by clockzero at 3:04 PM on March 4, 2010


what would happen if all those people playing Farmville and Mafia Wars were trying to save the world instead?

i would continue to block their facebook app invitations.
posted by the aloha at 3:22 PM on March 4, 2010 [8 favorites]


The last thing the desperate and downtrodden of the world need is help from the kind of people who play Farmville and Mafia Wars.
posted by Horace Rumpole at 3:23 PM on March 4, 2010 [2 favorites]


The last thing the desperate and downtrodden of the world need is help from the kind of people who play Farmville and Mafia Wars.

They couldn't do much worse than the World Bank.
posted by doctor_negative at 4:04 PM on March 4, 2010 [2 favorites]


I think it's crazy that all those pointless Facebook games aren't crowdsourcing tasks

They are. It's called "Facebook Personal Data Acquisition. Ville."
posted by DU at 4:08 PM on March 4, 2010 [3 favorites]


OK, I snarked, and now I've looked a bit further. Even though the first quest (describe your secret identity) sounds less than enthralling, especially considering you have to wait a week until the next quest is available, some people have already posted "Evidence" (which includes blog posts, inspirational photos, and product logo-type stuff, plus some weird stock art and ... other stuff).

Maybe people will get motivated to take part in something bigger, but Farmville and Mafia Wars are popular because they're small things you can do on your computer in your down time, or idle moments/hours. I'd like to think that people can be motivated to do great things, but trying to swap someone's distraction and idle gameplay for efforts towards a greater good sounds like a mis-match. Or at least, the "game" seems to be childish in design, like an adventure game designed by someone who never really enjoyed or understood the draw to such games.
posted by filthy light thief at 4:22 PM on March 4, 2010


I think it's crazy that all those pointless Facebook games aren't crowdsourcing tasks. Someone needs to come up with a Facebook RPG where you gain levels by performing pattern recognition tasks and make a bazillion.

You're thinking of Amazon's Mechanical Turk.
At Amazon, anyone with a computer and Internet access can serve as the human intelligence behind all sorts of tasks that computers can't perform on their own. The Web site promises a way to make easy money: "Complete simple tasks that people do better than computers. And, get paid for it--Choose from thousands of tasks, control when you work, and decide how much you earn."
Unlike mindless little games with silly badges, Mech.Turk is mindless little tasks with a tiny bit of change at the end of your efforts.
posted by filthy light thief at 4:29 PM on March 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


The last thing the desperate and downtrodden of the world need is help from the kind of people who play Farmville and Mafia Wars.

I faved you, but then realized that the one guy I know who plays Farmville is also the one most likely guy I know to save the world. He's very intelligent, competent, motivated, and caring. Volunteer work has always been his passion, and he's crazy good at it.

Not drawing any conclusions really. Just saying.

I know how skeptical people are of technology helping people, but if you want to devote some energy to building a computing cluster to run Folding@Home or something, and if enough people do that, that might (might) ultimately help some people. I don't think I get how playing a video game would do so, though.

Oh, oh, wait, I've got it: get really good at an MMO and use it to make some real money (by selling your in-game stuff or whatever), and then donate that money to some charitable group. That would do it, right?
posted by Xezlec at 5:37 PM on March 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


Are you sure all those people playing Farmville aren't unknowingly allocating land and resources to third-world farms via some sort of Facebook-Connect-powered robotic army?
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 5:56 PM on March 4, 2010


Unlike mindless little games with silly badges, Mech.Turk is mindless little tasks with a tiny bit of change at the end of your efforts.

Exactly.
1. Slap an achievement/experience treadmill onto Mechanical Turk
2. Make it a facebook and iphone app
3. PROFIT
posted by mek at 6:19 PM on March 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


I see someone took my advice.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 6:37 PM on March 4, 2010


I faved you, but then realized that the one guy I know who plays Farmville is also the one most likely guy I know to save the world. He's very intelligent, competent, motivated, and caring. Volunteer work has always been his passion, and he's crazy good at it.

Not drawing any conclusions really. Just saying.



Actually, I know someone just like this. I was shocked, shocked to find out that he had been spending so much time on farmville. It's not like he's stopped helping people around him, but it's just so weird.
posted by niles at 9:47 PM on March 4, 2010


I think it's crazy that all those pointless Facebook games aren't crowdsourcing tasks. Someone needs to come up with a Facebook RPG where you gain levels by performing pattern recognition tasks and make a bazillion.
posted by mek at 1:36 PM on March 4


I came here to post exactly this. All you have to do is make a model with isomorphic structure to the problem you are solving. Make the goal of the game to kill people, level up and make fake money and voila crowdsource computation.
posted by psycho-alchemy at 10:13 PM on March 4, 2010


psycho-alchemy: All you have to do is make a model with isomorphic structure to the problem you are solving.

Well, why didn't someone think of that first, eh? Wait - they already did; Galaxy Zoo has 150,000 volunteers classifying galaxy shapes and characteristics. There aren't many other good examples though, and the reason is because many problems that can be split up and distributed to novices (e.g. outlining craters on the Moon) can also be solved fairly well by computers; you have to design these quite carefully to make sure you aren't just wasting your volunteers' time.

As for other types of problems, like improving healthcare in hospitals or researching a new drug to fight cancer, the people who are tackling them either do not know enough about the problem to 'make a model with an isomorphic structure to the problem', or that structure would require serious specialist knowledge.

Games are not a magical wand that, in isolation, will somehow motivate people to do hard work for free, and giving people points certainly isn't going to motivate people to work on many of the most difficult and serious problems we face. There's nothing wrong with experimentation, but I find the idea that 'games will make everything better' insulting.
posted by adrianhon at 3:07 AM on March 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


Actually, I know someone just like this. I was shocked, shocked to find out that he had been spending so much time on farmville. It's not like he's stopped helping people around him, but it's just so weird.

Have y'all tried FarmVille? Because that's what it is... helping out people. At first, seeing all the "X found a lost cow!" and "Y's chickens have laid Mystery Eggs!" messages got on my nerves for the longest time, and I summarily ignored any and all FarmVille requests from friends, scoffing "pfffft" in the privacy of my apartment. But then one of my best friends, who knows what a cynical, anti-FB app person I can be, invited me. And I love it... well, apart from all the underhanded ways it tries to get your email address. I don't like that. But apart from that, it only takes a few minutes to play, and you're encouraged to help other people. I get a kick out of visiting my friends' farms every day and seeing what they're doing with them.

I also found out that just about every single one of my friends who'd joined the "I don't give a **** about your stupid farm or your stupid mafia!!" group... has a farm, and plays regularly. Ha.
posted by fraula at 4:15 AM on March 5, 2010


This was my 100th front page post. I've only just realized that you people don't click the links before you snark. I guess I'm a slow learner.
posted by anotherpanacea at 5:27 AM on March 5, 2010


This episode of a A Life Well Wasted interviews the guy behind the original version of google's image labelling game. He actually has a good point about how people need down time. The problem with this conceit is like adrianhon said:

Games are not a magical wand that, in isolation, will somehow motivate people to do hard work for free, and giving people points certainly isn't going to motivate people to work on many of the most difficult and serious problems we face.

I don't think it's the reward structure. I think the setup is at cross purposes. People play games to relax and to function in an environment where their actions have no consequences. Solving problems and leaving the house isn't downtime. Image labeller works because the task demands a small amount of initiative from someone and can be performed while watching 30 Rock on your other monitor. This isn't a terrible idea, but people will not play it for the same reasons and with the same mindset that they play farmville. You aren't going to convert people, you might get people who have a low level interest in "doing something," but don't know where to start. This might whet their appetite.

Has anything come out of "World Without Oil?" Everything Jane McGonigal does feels too slick, there's too much emphasis on the marketing aspect for me to take it seriously, I'm especially turned off by the 20 tutorial videos on this website.
posted by edbles at 5:38 AM on March 5, 2010


fraula: You do help people in FarmVille, yes - I spent quite a while fertilising my friends' farms, although that was partly because I got extra XP that way. But what kind of help was that? I probably spent ten seconds on each of them.

Compare that with writing someone a reference for a job, or emailing some advice about which car to buy - even though those things might only take a few minutes, they demand real thought and I'm not sure whether a typical game would motivate people to do them. 'Getting Things Done' processes are somewhat gamelike in the way they help people perform these chores, and even then many people have problems stick with it.

edbles: That's a good point - most people do play games to relax or purely for entertainment. The thesis that Jane McGonigal et al have, however, is that games can enact major changes in behaviour and society precisely through those reward structures. As it happens, I think this will actually work with some people, but by no means everyone - I know some very outgoing people who could accomplish a lot if they had better motivation and tracking (but I suppose people would then start gaming the games...)

As for WWO, a bit of digging reveals that it had about 2000 registered players, of whom 270 people contributed a piece of content (which is how you played the game). Of those, 170 people contributed more than one piece.

Evoke is performing much better than WWO with around 8000 players and 2000 bits of content after only three days, which is a testament to its message and the marketing power arrayed behind it. I don't doubt that many people will find Evoke's message to be inspiring - but inspiration is not enough to 'save the world'.
posted by adrianhon at 6:47 AM on March 5, 2010


The thesis that Jane McGonigal et al have, however, is that games can enact major changes in behavior and society precisely through those reward structures.

Right my point and I guess I'm harping on the phrasing of the FPP is that the people who play this game are not the same audience as the casual gamer audience. The people who play this game probably have a "need to get involved more" target goal on the backburner in their brain. You can't instantly transpose a causal gamer into a social activist just by wrapping a game structure around social activism.

From the cnn article:
She said she will measure success by how involved people are in the game, whether they stick with the story until the end and if they've joined organizations or taken real steps to create change in their communities.

This kind of also feels like everything Merlin Mann is harping against in everything he's been releasing on productivity lately. Don't get wrapped up in the system or the game of doing something instead DO SOMETHING and do it as a habit. On the other hand it seems like a big part of this game is doing something so maybe I am being silly.
posted by edbles at 7:29 AM on March 5, 2010


This gamasutra article has some interesting points about persuasive gaming.
posted by edbles at 10:03 AM on March 5, 2010


I think this is the link that edbles was trying for.

I was really excited by the reference to moral luck, but then I realized the author was completely misunderstanding it.
posted by anotherpanacea at 4:48 AM on March 6, 2010


Not one mention of Wikipedia?
posted by dhartung at 10:50 PM on March 18, 2010


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