Empowering Africa

Urgent Evoke is “a crash course in saving the world” …

Urgent Evoke

Online game seeks to empower Africa

Game designer Jane McGonigal sees “superheroes” with untapped potential that can be used to fix vexing real-world problems.

McGonigal’s latest online game, called “Urgent Evoke,” launches on Wednesday. With it, she hopes to channel the obsessive focus online games create into something more productive than conquering monsters and earning virtual weapons.

She wants to push people in Africa — a long-troubled continent where people might feel less empowered than elsewhere — to solve problems like environmental degradation, lack of food, water scarcity, poverty and violence.

To do this, the Urgent Evoke game — classified in the emerging “alternate reality” genre — straddles the online and physical worlds. Players, a few hundred of whom are in Africa, earn points and power-ups by completing real-world tasks like volunteering, making business contacts or researching an issue, then submitting evidence of their work online.

At the end of the game, McGonigal expects some players to have business plans about how they will improve the world.

.. A new challenge, such as a famine or water shortage, is presented to players at midnight for 10 weeks. Players earn points by accepting the challenges and then responding with evidence that they’ve used their real-life “superhero” powers to help. A person might, for example, contact a community organization that specializes in environmental issues, or try to provide meals for someone in their neighborhood.

… People spend a collective 3 billion hours per week playing online games today, she said. That number must be 21 billion — seven times the current amount — for our society to realize its innovative and creative potential, she said.

.. In 2007, she created an online game called World Without Oil, which challenged people to re-imagine their lives without their dependence on fossil fuels.

John D. Sutter @ CNN

See also AvantGame by Jane McGonigal.

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