Thursday, August 10, 2006


Could a casual game
lead to political action or social change?

How much information can you communicate through a casual game before it moves beyond its casual appeal?

After much careful thought and consideration and slamming my head into the wall, I admit that I don't have any clear answers.

But it's compelling to imagine a mixture of The Daily Show and Bejeweled, even without knowing the specifics of that vision.

Casual games represent a great delivery mechanism - small downloads, easy-to-learn systems, low overheads and cross-demographic appeal.

I'm thinking about ARGs and flash mobs - could they work as part of a Get Out The Vote effort? What if a scavenger mystery culminated on election day? What if registering to vote yielded new clues? Would people consider such a game casual or hardcore?

A campaign run with a digital token game spread through e-mail and cell phones. Responding to questionnaires, volunteering for events, every little action is rewarded with a pack of tokens. These virtual tokens carry memories of your actions - you can level them up and then play against a computer or real-life opponent. I'm thinking a mix of Checkers/Go, with the altered tokens extending the rules set.

Maybe a policy group creates a puzzle game. Blocks of words fill the screen. The words are adjectives and nouns. Players attempt to create chains of words that will yield a policy problem at the bottom of the screen, along with several different suggestions. The game will build a map of the player's responses and show them where they differ from the policy group. The player won't just get the party line, however - levels will delve into differing viewpoints and relevant historical events in bite-size chunks.

I think we're already seeing more complex games altering society. MMOs, especially, are changing the way people interact. Second Life is a great example -- I'd like to see the concepts of SL stripped down and placed into a browser, maybe even a simplified interface that would directly translate into the full experience.

For that matter, I'd like to see a candidate for public office with an SL persona.

Link: Watercooler games has examples of political and activist games.


paul said...

really weird/awesome ideas.

Patrick Dugan said...

The magic circle is gerrymandering.

That said, my particular specialization in this regard would be to elegant game design (in the encircled traditional sense) that implies a whole lot, rather than explicitedly communicates information. Thats the embryo for stuff that blends the line and actively affects society. But I'll tell you what, vote Patrick Dugan for president in 2020.