Games researcher and developer Jane McGonigal, my colleague at Institute for the Future, is on the cover of the SF Weekly this week! She's the subject of an in-depth profile about her research on alternate reality gaming and the potential for play to help manage real world dilemmas. Congrats, Jane! From the SF Weekly:
McGonigal designs games for a living, and she believes they point the way toward civilization's next step forward. Her games are sprawling extravaganzas that suck in thousands of players and force them to pool their talents to become, essentially, one big networked brain. In the young and burgeoning genre of alternate reality games, otherwise known as ARGs, the players' collective intelligence is applied to cracking codes, solving puzzles, and completing complex tasks doled out by almighty "puppetmasters." McGonigal is one of the people who pulls the strings…
(Jane's latest game), called World Without Oil, launches April 30, when an imaginary oil crisis will shake the alternate reality version of the planet. Players who suspend disbelief will help characters cope with the consequences, whatever they may be – shortages, riots, wars, or surprising technological adjustments. McGonigal and Monsef are spending much of this final month creating convincing evidence of events that will unfold, filming vignettes and taking photographs to tell pieces of the story.
World Without Oil is McGonigal's bold step forward; it's a game designed for the public good, rather than for pure entertainment or subtle marketing. The tagline declares its intentions to be a public service announcement about the world's dangerous dependence on oil: "Play it – before you live it." McGonigal isn't a fanatic on the subject of oil addiction, although, like many people, she thinks an oil crisis is a looming possibility. Letting gamers role-play the scenario now, she says, could result in something like a citizen's manual on how to respond to the crisis.