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Games for Good, v3.0


The idea that games can save the world isn’t new; Jane McGonigal has been saying it for over a decade now. Her research showed that games teach people how to achieve great things. Computer games and gameworlds are a virtual sandbox in which we can teach ourselves how to solve problems, how to persevere in difficult circumstances, how to collaborate with others—especially complete strangers—and how to ‘level up’ past what we thought we were capable of. This is great on a personal level, but it also means that humanity has collectively spent millions of man-years inside online gameworlds. McGonigal theorized that the skills and staying-power people gain in the virtual world could have an immense impact on the real world. If we could find a way to harness that power, gamers could save the real world, rather than just imaginary ones.

I used McGonigal’s ideas in my 2019 novel Stealing Worlds. There, Augmented-Reality gaming allows the ‘epic win’ to be something people can accomplish in the real world. A virtual world is overlaid over our ordinary one, turning dull, unrewarding drudge work into components of a mighty quest. Cleaning dog feces out of the local park becomes cleansing a magical kingdom of dark magic; taking groceries to a shut-in becomes as significant as becoming the bearer of the One Ring. People are motivated, determined, and in the story, these gamers achieve great things.

Last year, the incredibly creative folks at Tomorrow Lab took one of the ideas from Stealing Worlds and turned it into a real-world prototype. You can check out the results of our Courier Commons project on YouTube, at The Courier Commons gamifies the transport of packages throughout a city, transforming the activity of carrying somebody else’s stuff from a chore, into a subquest that gives you the ‘player’ some reward in a game you’re playing, while moving important stuff around at no monetary cost.

The Courier Commons provides a glimpse of a possible future; but it doesn’t solve the problem of how gamers can make the world a better place right now, through the games they currently play and the consoles they play them on. Jane McGonigal’s gamified future may come to pass eventually, but in the meantime, how do we achieve that epic win without uprooting our whole way of life?

At Viv-games, we’ve come up with a solution. We can make the games you play right now have a direct impact on urgent issues such as global warming and ecosystem collapse. Instead of having to gamify the world, we’ve crafted a system where you can save the world from within the gameworlds you already inhabit. It’s easy, it’s fun, and it harnesses the platforms and skills you already have.

We can’t wait to show it to you.

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