Since the days of the Romans little has, arguably, changed. Panem et circenses or, Bread and Circuses, is still the most powerful vehicle for controlling the masses. Romans had their beasts and gladiators; we have Max Payne, Hollywood and sports events. Could it be by chance that Spain’s recent bail-out by the IMF happened just a day before La Roja’s match against Italy for the UEFA cup? Nevertheless, the real twist of these virtual realities is that the masses are now able to play for change instead of the maintenance of their status quo.
According to video-game developer Jane McGonigal, gamers are motivated to face and overcome challenges. This is because they are invited to participate in epic adventures where every achievement is rewarded with bonus points providing motivation, and blogging communities share top advice on how to get to the next level, forming a strong social fabric. Both elements combined provide a sense of optimism boosting extreme productivity – literally thousands of hours, many of them without food or sleep.
With this army of tireless problem-solvers ready for an ever greater challenge, the Institute for the Future and the World Bank Institute (WBI) combined efforts and created a series of games where oil, poverty, health, security and other pressing issues were turned into video-games. WBI certificates were issued for those who could successfully complete the game. Although still at an experimental stage for the bigger plan of saving the world, other more practical and specific projects are strong proof-points of how gaming can change the world for the better.
The multinational management consulting technology services and outsourcing Accenture has recently completed a six-month walking programme. The belief is that healthier and more active employees are happier and more productive. These were given a pedometer where “step-miles” were converted, at an online gaming platform, into points that could be exchanged for goods, corporate benefits and even money!
London creative agency Digit brought the idea to life through its City Peaks Challenge, where steps are added-up to build the image of iconic landmarks. Instead of just telling your colleagues that today you walked 3 thousand steps, how much cooler and motivating it is to be able to say that on a given week you were able to climb the Gherkin or Mount Fuji while at work!
Playing is one of the most effective ways to learn as well as to forming tight-bonds with other people. The Romans learnt real quickly. After millennia we finally realised that playing games can be more than learning or simple distraction but a call to action. Dust-of your joysticks because it is game on time!