During her talk at TED 2010, Jane McGonigal argued that game developers have a responsibility to change the world for the better by harnessing the efforts of gamers to improve the real world. Her dream is to see a game developer win the Nobel Prize by 2032. EVOKE, McGonigal’s most recent foray into the serious games arena, launched on March 3rd and may be a step towards achieving that goal. To date, there are over 9,000 agents registered on the site, with more joining every day.
The primary outlet for gameplay in EVOKE is the EVOKE Network itself. After creating a profile on the game’s ning social networking platform, agents can post blogs, images, or video files responding to a number of Quests and Missions. Alternatively, content can be added or accessed via SMS, mobile web, or mobile Facebook to make the game more accessible to players without access to computers. By successfully completing Quests and Missions, students can earn “mission runes” and achievement badges to track their progress. They can also award EVOKE Powers to contributions that excel in a number of different categories. Structurally, the EVOKE Network is similar to McGonigal’s previous project, Top Secret Dance Off, which relied on the community to identify and reward positive contributions while offering loosely structured challenges.
In addition to the EVOKE Network, the game provides an opportunity to learn more about the EVOKE organization and its leader, Alchemy, through a series of weekly graphic novels taking place in the year 2020. Through EVOKE, Alchemy provides anonymous services to countries in desperate need of assistance in exchange for a percentage of the profits from their contributions. Meanwhile, a second, equally secretive organization is seeking information about EVOKE for unknown reasons. So far, interactivity has been limited to the EVOKE Network, with the graphic novel serving as a passive accompaniment to the larger discussion. For example, in the first two installments of the graphic novel, EVOKE solved a food shortage in Tokyo without requiring or asking for the assistance of the game’s players.
Wouldn’t it be great if, during times of crisis, there was a way to access a network of experts ready and able to help avert the crisis? Starting March 3rd, the Evoke Network goes live and available for all your crisis-averting needs!
EVOKE was developed by the World Bank Institute, the educational branch of the World Bank Group, and directed by Jane McGonigal, the creative mind behind Superstruct and World Without Oil (among many others) and most recently an invited speaker at TED2010. The alternate reality game’s mission is to help the world help itself, by empowering young people to tackle the world’s toughest problems. In the first episode, the year is 2020 and Japan is facing a nation-wide famine. The Governor of Tokyo sends an “EVOKE” to the mysterious Alchemy, who then activates the Evoke Network by contacting individuals with the necessary skills and ideas needed to help Tokyo avert her food crisis, and teach her people how to avoid it in the future.
During the 10 week course of the game, players will be presented with 10 different challenges involving topics like hunger, poverty, and education – one challenge per week. Players who participate in all 10 challenges will be honored as a “Certified World Bank Institute Social Innovator – Class of 2010.” On top of that, the top 10 Social Innovators will also have the opportunity to be mentored by noted social innovators and business leaders, along with scholarships to the EVOKE Summit in Washington, DC to share their innovative ideas with the world.
The goal of the game? Fun of course! But the main goal is to teach the young people of the world skills such as networking, resourcefulness, creativity, and vision; empowering them to start solving the world’s problems. Teach the people, save the world!
EVOKE launches on March 3rd and is accepting membership reservations now, and discussion is brewing over in Unfiction. Also, the first graphic novel episode can be read in its entirety on the EVOKE homepage, including links to articles for additional information on the topics discussed in the episode and a video trailer with clues about the nature of the EVOKE Network.