Jane McGonigal's new game: Cruel 2 B Kind

Earlier today, I posted that game researcher/prankster Jane McGonigal was included in Technology Review's prestigious 2006 TR35 list of "Young Innovators Under 35." Jane just emailed to tell me about the latest game she and collaborator Ian Bogost are premiering later this month. It's called Cruel 2 B Kind, a "game of benevolent assassination." Jane says:

Cruel 2 B Kind is designed to be played anywhere in public, by
10 to 200+ simultaneous players, anywhere in the world there's cell
phone coverage.

I know what you're thinking: Why benevolent assassination? What's wrong with the good, old-fashioned violent kind? :) (like Street Wars, for example) Well, with the trend lately to move games of assassination to more public spaces and to include more diverse social networks, and as governments start to issue warnings to game organizers that their actions will be potentially construed as terrorist threats (this happened in London last month!) it seemed necessary to start rethinking what players are doing. As the magic circle of the game starts to encompass more people and places, we thought it would be a good idea to trade the water balloons and Nerf guns for interactions that create a more interesting social effect on both players and bystanders.

The really exciting thing about it, though, is that we also made it to be the world's first open/public pervasive game. As you probably realize alread, most big pervasive games are either commerical, or proprietary (only the makers can run it), or don't have sufficient technological infrastructure to make it easy for ordinary folks (i.e., non-programmers) to run it where they live. So we set out to make a pervasive game that was 1) easy for people who aren't hard-core gamers to understand and get excited about and 2) completely free and non-commerical 3) possible for anyone to run. You just sign up for a date and time and tell us where you're running it, and we set up a registration page for your players, and the game runs automatically on that time and date. All the organizers have to do is gather players, and all the players have to do is show up! Then, we're funneling back feedback from the local organizers to increase our database of game weapons (which are all random acts of kindness you perform on suspected targets).

We're world premiering in New York City Saturday September 23 at the Come Out and Play Festival, but we've already run two awesome playtests in San Francisco. And we've already got people signed up to run their own Cruel 2 B Kind games everywhere from Los Angeles to suburban Illinois, London to Dublin, and I'll hopefully be doing games in Delhi, Hong Kong, and Singapore.