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Playing Serious Games Into A New Way Of Acting

Alternate Reality Games: Playing Serious Games into a new way of acting as opposed to acting your way into a new way of playing

Inspired by Jane McGonigal's yesterday posting at Avant Game: Erasing the delta: Games that alter reality! , debriefing the corresponding GDC 2007 session, track: SGS: Assessment & Results.

Yesterday I went thoroughly through Jane McGonigal's notes for her first Game Developers Conference talk, as part of a Serious Games summit panel on “Erasing the Delta: Creating Games Where There is No Gap Between Play and a Specific Task".

As she reported back, the theme of the panel was about moving away from games that just prepare you to do something (learning/training games), or help you think about something (simulation games, persuasive games) and developing games that actually require you to do that thing simply by playing them (games that work).

Her spiel follows
Erasing the Delta Gap is really about two different practices:

Making a new kind of serious games

Games that are designed as functions of an end result, that introduces a measurable difference to the current state of reality.

Redefining what constitutes "serious impact" or "end result":

In my (Eliane's) view, a corner stone of this proposition is the metrics piece, which resides at the institutional sphere.

Even if major serious game developers agree upon the basic principles supporting the design of this "new kind of game", major stakeholders would still have to agree upon what constitutes end result and which is the most suitable metric.

As Jane has already anticipated -- We can consider for example “improved quality of life” and “better health” and “improved social organization” and “future resources produced” - those metrics are definitely not the traditional academic or organizational ones.

My counter argument would be that the area of health has been developing a global sense of community, with a common set metrics, for several years. Therefore it is not surprising they can often agree upon what constitutes end results.

Unfortunately, I could not say the same in respect of academic, social, political or business results.

So, besides evaluating the role of ARGs (Alternate Reality Games) in erasing the delta, I would suggest Serious Games community to early enroll major "players" (in the sense of constituencies) in redefining of what constitutes results and the fit-for-purpose metrics.

So: What is the role of Alternate Reality Games in erasing the delta?

The new opportunities for ARGs to do work is best understood as a movement through different definitions of “realism” in gameplay.

Realism in ARGs

The Beast was a campaign built and executed for Warner Brothers to promote Steven Spielberg’s film, AI: Artificial Intelligence

1st wave ARGs, they’re so real! Real Live (embedded in real, working life): operational, everyday technologies, intimate

2nd wave ARGs, they’re so real! Real World (moving into real-world spaces): social, physical, face to face, everyday spaces, public

ilovebees was created for the Microsoft Game Studio to promote Halo2, the sequel to the all-time hit Xbox title Halo

3rd wave ARGs, they’re so real! Real Impact (starting to solve real-world problems, for example: global relations/world peace, massively multiplayer science, quality of life, learning): intentional, effective. Games that alter reality!

World Without Oil – generating a massively collaborative map of potential, citizen responses to oil shock; constructing a database of lower-consumption practices that might prevent that shock from happening