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Serious Games: ARGs Challenging Us To Play A Better Future

Game designer Jane McGonigal delivers the Research & Design keynote speech at the Game Developers Conference. Recently named by MIT's Technology Review as one of the top 25 innovators changing the world through technology, McGonigal announced her new ARG, World Without Oil. McGonigal calls the game -- which lets players share their ideas for better life during an international oil shortage -- a way to shift from alternate reality games to games that alter reality.

Via: Avant Game and CNET

Future serious games to harness players' collective intelligence

That's the prediction of Jane McGonigal, a longtime developer of alternate-reality games who has now gone to work as the in-house game developer for the Institute for the Future, an independent nonprofit research group that generates the foresight needed to create insights about the future that lead to action.

At her talk, titled "The future of collective play: Fostering collaboration, network literacy and massively multiplayer problem-solving through alternate-reality games," by "future of collective play" she meant two things: first, the new kinds of collaborative games we might pioneer over the next decade, and second: the real-world future we might build for ourselves by playing more collectively.

McGonigal spent an hour explaining how "collective intelligence," and games designed around that concept, could be a prime component in future learning, as well as in helping governmental agencies and private organizations solve a wide range of problems.

She explained that collective intelligence is about many people coming together and using technology to solve problems or advance knowledge. A prime example, she pointed out, is Wikipedia, the online encyclopedia that allows anyone to create and edit articles.

And as both public and private organizations seek to incorporate collective intelligence to achieve their goals, McGonigal said it will be vital to create a curriculum that can teach such institutions how to leverage the concept.

She then talked about the 2004 alternate-reality game, I Love Bees, which she helped run. That game, which was designed to help promote Halo 2, tasked players across the world with solving problems by working together, despite there being few instructions and nowhere to turn for direct answers.

Eventually, by self-organizing into smaller groups that approached the problem from discrete angles, players were able to come up with the solution: that the codes designated pay phones around the world and specific times each would ring. Players then determined that there had to be someone on hand to answer each phone and get the clue that would be delivered.

But McGonigal also said that many of the failed suggestions ended up being incorporated into the game at future points, something anyone wanting to utilize collective intelligence in game design or education would be wise to take note of: reward participation, not success.

Ultimately, McGonigal argued, over the next ten years, a particular kind of digital game-- the massively collaborative puzzle genre known as alternate reality gaming -- will become increasingly important as both a way to imagine and engineer a best-case scenario future. Alternate reality gaming will also assume the role of a central cultural activity, teaching and training us to be successful and ethical actors in a global, networked culture--particularly as that culture is increasingly chaotic, democratic, commercial and cooperative.

The Beast game was an alternate reality game (ARG) created by a team at Microsoft to promote the Steven Spielberg film A.I.: Artificial Intelligence. The Beast was the first mature ARG and is widely considered the father of the genre.

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