Summer Is Coming…Occupy the Games! – Part 1


Why Games? 

Last fall while I was spending a lot of my spare time with Occupy Los Angeles at City Hall in downtown L.A., I did take an evening off to join some friends for a night out in Hollywood.

The event was a combination of a live music show and a lecture with 1980’s pop star and Silicon Valley entrepreneur Thomas Dolby who is best known for his international hit ‘She Blinded Me With Science’. He talked about an interesting new project that originated with the creation of an online interactive game featuring his music called ‘Map of the Floating City.’ We were fascinated with the whole process, content, and evolution of an experience that brought people together from around the globe for about four months. That phenomenon of social connection through gaming has been stuck in my head since yet I knew that it would somehow resurface.

When many people of all ages are feeling less productive and often disconnected from the educational and economic systems and even each other in our modern world, are needing more employment and career opportunities or funding for their education, when financial investments are less reliable, and even diplomas seem to carry less value, socio-cultural and socio-economic alternatives are needed in order to prepare humankind for the future… NOW!

Jane McGonigal, the Director of Games Research and Development at the Institute of the Future, believes that gaming can hold many solutions because gamers themselves are super-empowered and extraordinarily optimistic.  Gamers have already achieved goals of epic proportions in virtual worlds.  “Games like World of Warcraft © give players the means to save worlds, and incentive to learn the habits of heroes. What if we could harness this gamer power to solve real-world problems?” She says we can, and in the video below explains how.

Gaming Can Make A Better World  

In February of this year, I connected with the Future of Occupy that led to this article being written. I was introduced to another fascinating interactive experience called ‘Edgeryders,’ a social game initially created to engage European youth in practicing the principle of open collaboration with each other for the purpose of claiming “a stronger influence on our common future- and a larger share of the social responsibility that goes with it.”

About Edgeryders

Edgeryders was created by Alberto Cottica and his associates and is financed with funding from the EU.  It is their goal to create a massive think tank that could educate participants about ‘how’ to create human capital through online community participation as we transition into the so-called uncertain future.  The benefits can extend from individuals finding help, to inspiring others and even public policy.  Of course, there is much more potential than this article can even begin to describe, but I’ll do my best to attempt a beginning.

The basic idea of the game involves exploring what are called campaigns which include but are not limited to how to use the program itself, care for the common resources, produce art, media and culture, utilize new educational tools and processes, and even address fundamental concerns such as making a living and learning how to live together.

The campaigns are developed through what are called missions that could best be described as research projects with participation by individuals or groups.  The subject matter can literally be unlimited and anyone willing to actively contribute can benefit from the learning process.

As one example, over a period of time, concepts of alternative economies are discussed, developed, and then implemented by individual participants beginning with the engagement of each other in online conversation using Facebook and Twitter. The dialogue consists of discussion around work experiences, successes and failures, recruitment and interview processes, compensation and incentives, and related topics. By commenting on each other’s posts and using an open source platform, the sky is the limit as the ideas unfold from the input of the participants.

There are bound to be certain elements that may remind you of commercial video or online game formats such as the idea of getting reps, but getting reps doesn’t mean gaining points in order to be competitive.  Getting reps in Edgeryder builds your reputation score and a great reputation score means that you are making many great constructive contributions to the community of participants.  There are also more experienced players and part of gathering more reps means helping the less experienced to better understand how to fully participate.  As you get more familiar with the game, you discover where your personality, skills and talents lie within the symbolism of ‘Houses’ using members of the animal kingdom as references, similar to the Chinese Zodiac.  Badges are symbolic of ‘how’ you most likely would best use your skills and talents.

There are no guarantees that one will be a successful problem solver no matter how great the effort or intention, but therein lies the incentive to keep trying!

I must admit, my interest has certainly been sparked and I’ve only just begun to explore it.  As the commons becomes more and more integrated with the core content and concerns of the 99% and Occupy movements, ideas for a unique online interactive experience can certainly be a part of the beginning of a new and exciting creative era for the commons and the future of occupy.

As a matter of fact, George Por, a former Research Fellow at INSEAD and the London School of Economics, a major influence behind The Future of Occupy, and my new evolutionary mentor on the subject of the commons, affirms that developing such a game should inspire the creation and experiencing of the practice and the management of shared resources.  “Moving from the I to the We where individuals become capable to think, feel and act as Commons” is definitely not only a message to integrate with like-minded individuals and groups in our global society, but truly a way to maintain social and economic sustainability.

My research and dialogue with others has only just begun. Stay tuned for more!

I challenge all gamers who are reading this including Occupy-friendly game designers and game-friendly Occupy activists to help create social games inspired by the content and the culture of the Occupy principles that will carry the messages to the 99%.  If you feel called to act on the challenge, and are ready to be a part of a collective that links to networks of people that are likewise called to this challenge, get in touch with me and we can begin the dialogue. You can contact me at nowmanrightnow@yahoo.com

This is the year of the summer Olympic games, but why wait until summer?  Occupy the Games begins…. NOW!

Love and Peace,

Dan Nowman Niswander

For more information check out these links:

http://edgeryders.ppa.coe.int/page/about-game

www.gameful.org

www.gamesforchange.org

www.gamesbeyondentertainment.com

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