Let the games begin!
Around seven million tickets have been sold for the London Olympics and if the viewing figures for the Athens Olympics are anything to go by, a further four billion people will tune in at least once to watch the Olympics on TV.
We love games. And we seem to particularly love the epic quality of the Olympic Games.
We also love online games. A lot. Globally, there are around 660 million active gamers. (Active meaning they spend an average of 13 hours a week playing online, usually mass multi-player games). World of Warcraft gamers love it so much they've spent a collective 5.93 million years playing it; around 50 billion hours! And that's discounting the hours it's taken to build the quarter of a million wikis describing and talking about their fictional world. Epic.
These kind of stats are almost universally seen by non-gamers as 'a waste of a life', time wasting, pointless escapism. And don't get me wrong, I'm by no means a mindless flag-waver for getting more people to play Hero 3, but as online and casual games begin to break out of the virtual world, across into collaborative platforms and cross over into real life, things begin to look much more interesting.
And it's small wonder why a great many people are spending a lot of time trying to understand how to exploit our love of games, to develop 'serious games'; and exploring how the principles which underpin good games (see how I'm avoiding the gamification word?) can be applied to engage and motivate people to do all kinds of stuff; whether that be in education (e.g. Quest to Learn), doing household chores (e.g Chore Wars) or motivating participation and sharing between programmers (e.g. Stack Overflow).
And as my working life currently revolves around trying to source, incubate and accelerate innovations in giving (whether that be the giving of money, time or resources for good causes) of course, I started to wonder how we might better use gaming to increase giving...
There's a story doing the rounds at the moment about how those brilliant sand-artists on the South Bank took away their cloth cap and a 'Please Give Generously' sign and replaced it with a bucket, a bell and a new sign inviting people to 'Hit The Bucket, Ring The Bell'. They doubled their donations. And they did it by not asking people to give, but asking them to game.
We're increasingly seeing how games and game-play have the potential to increase giving. Nesta has invested in, PlayMob who revolutionise giving through gaming. They've developed a 'GiverBoard' technology which connects computer games with charities, so that players can fundraise for charity by purchasing virtual items within a game. And through the Innovation in Giving Fund, we're supporting Guess2Give.com which combines a sponsorship platform with a sweepstake - incentivising friends, family, colleagues to donate to good causes, competing with each other to win cash prizes. Games that Give is an online platform that lets users play a large number of branded games, raising money for charity dependent on the amount of time they spend playing the game. Launched in 2008, Games that Give now hosts more than 20 of the web's most popular games.
But it crossed my mind that if we actually wanted to make games - rather than exploiting game-play - to increase giving we've got all bits of the jigsaw in place; they just need fitting together. For good giving games I think we need:
- A sense of the Epic. Something that connects all our small actions to a larger movement or meaning; and a larger body of people to see and share what we're doing.
- Positive feedback about how we're doing. Something that not just recognises that we're kinking out of our ordinary groove to do something, but thanks and rewards us. That lets us know that someone has noticed, and gives us a +1 for doing it.
- A sense of progression and challenge. That if we want to, we can do and give more - and we're offered steps for progressing and doing this. And with doing and giving more, we are 'powered up' - and our increased social action is expressed and visible in some form.
And there's everything in place to make this happen...
- Ways of logging our giving activity. This is happening through the rise of the 'giving identity'. Givey are pioneering this, with others on their way I suspect, but it's the idea that we can expand the multiple set of identities we have online (through LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook etc) and create a place where we record and aggregate all the good stuff we do as individuals, whether that be giving money, volunteering, expressing support etc - connecting ourselves - and others - to the story of our own giving. There are many drivers for creating giving identities but one of them might be related to point 2...
- Rewards and Points systems. We're seeing a rise in the number of platforms and enterprises which seek to reward people who do good, give or volunteer - Blue Dot is one, Recyclebank another. Care4Care might be described as a rewards system; earning credits to be redeemed for care in your dotage. Now offering extrinsic rewards for giving might be controversial for some, but I'm not sure many people would argue that offering real-time positive feedback (whatever form it takes) for doing good is a powerful way to sustain positive behaviour.
- The rise of micro-volunteering opportunities. Such as Sparked.com, Help From Home, or real-life opportunities like running for good in The Good Gym. But we're collectively starting to build increasingly intelligent database systems that can match the right people to the right kind of volunteering opportunities. Building a sense of personal progression and recognition through volunteering (whether I do that through Sparked, Slivers of Time or Do-it.org) seems an obvious next step.
- A strong set of UK based Alternate Reality Games Designers who are successfully creating blends of on and off line gaming; increasingly with a social aim.
By bringing these components together I think there are epic games to be developed; that offer compelling game-play, where winning and 'levelling up' is achieved through giving and volunteering, and where my own giving is visible, shared and gamed with others - with the bigger picture firmly in view.
For those people that are working to develop giving identities, rewards systems, micro-volunteering platforms or alternate reality games, and are interested in having a bigger conversation about what Gaming Giving could really mean, contact me at [email protected]
Enjoy the Games.
With thanks to you know who; who introduced me to Jane McGonigal.