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.