Sunday, July 10, 2011

Turning earth into a Collective tamagochi

One of the reasons for coming to Berlin was to catch up with Rilla Khaled from ITU in Kopenhagen. She did her PhD on designing a culturally sensitive advergame that helps kids to stop smoking. It was a cool project with lots of potential (you can see her website with links to the game and technical papers here: brings us together is to do work and conduct research that has a positive impact on people and their lives. It turned out to be an idea-fuelled three hour super idea nuclear fusion session. The ideas were just whizzing through the air and one thought in one corner led to the next even better and crazier one.

How can we make the world a better place? It is a cheesy question, admittedly, but sometimes the cheese saves the day.

Here are some teasers. Think cellphones. Everyone has one (well most people have). Then think facebook. Everyone is on it and constantly connecting to everyone else on their list. This is the access route. People play games both on their facebook and on their phones. Some of the coolest games are those where you are playing with your friends. Remember those good old Mario Brother sessions playing against your brother or sister? Now imagine Dance Dance Revolution or Rock Star, but instead of doing dance steps or play the coolest rock bogan on the planet, use behaviour that makes a difference. Recycle, take the bike to work, help an old women across the street, volunteer for a good cause. Think of earth as a tamagochi that everyone wants to nurture. Now mix it all up and create the new social craze where our collective good actions make earth thrive. People report back via their mobile phones what they did and get credit in their game. Cameras or GPS systems can monitor and pinpoint cheaters and award penalties.
This is one of the base ideas. We had a final twist which could turn it into a super-cool next generation game. But that would be to spoil the beans, better watch Rilla's space....
These ideas are slightly creepy though... Why do we need to think of games to make people do good things? Why do we need to worry about cheaters and free-riders? But then, why not use the things and little gadgets that people are using to make world a better place.

Because we can :) Turn earth into a tamagochi that everyone cares about. Invent games that get people to do positive things (not shoot others), those that increase awareness, global consciousness, improve their health, turn the world green. Make the world a better place.
Play by play.


  1. It is a good idea, indeed. Nowadays, one of the most important things is to acknowledge the power of social networks and technology. They have huge impact on our lives. They are not necessarily good or bad, though. It totally depends who (ab)uses it. They can be used to have "easier wars" or they can be used to make a better world.

    In my opinion, people would be really willing to change themselves if they believe that the world will be a better place for both themselves and the next generation. Everyone is fed up with curroption and contamination. Therefore, with a powerful introduction within media, any technology will win. Play is definetely a good way of doing it.

    Congratulations. Would be happy to undertake anything for the service of a better world.

  2. Heh - you should've been at the Cross-cultural lab when I was talking, I mentioned some of this stuff (gamification etc). I expect Rilla is already deep into Jane Mcgonigal's work in this area? Worth looking up her TED talk if you haven't already watched it.

    Very interesting! Keen to hear more!

  3. Morgan, great link. I really like what she is doing. The idea of the great story is fantastic. The design on the other still seems to work mainly within an individualistic paradigm (one person playing and interacting with others). Rilla has been pushing the design to truly group oriented interactive plays, where the community is part and parcel of the game design. I believe this could really be changing (or at least enrich) how we play games.

  4. Yasin,
    Thanks for being so enthusiastic. It is really encouraging to see so many people who have similar ideas. The power of social networking is that it can bring all these people together and link them with each other.
    The game ideas provide another hook that can help us to improve the world. Let's do it together :)