I wanted to share this TED talk with you, and the reason why is that it cause my jaw to literally drop no less then 3 times. Jane McGonigal from the Institue for the Future talks about how: “Games like World of Warcraft give players the means to save worlds, and incentive to learn the habits of heroes.” She asks the question, “What if we could harness this gamer power to solve real-world problems,” then she goes on to explain how.
First, some background: Sid Meier’s Civilization is a turn-based strategy game. The game’s objective is to “…build an empire to stand the test of time.” The game begins in 4000 BC, and you, the player, attempt to expand and develop your empires through the ages until modern and near-future times.
A victory can be achieved in four different ways:
- Domination: The player must capture all of the other civilizations’ capital cities
- Culture: Obtain a total of 20 great persons, wonders, and/or converted cities in any combination, and build the United Nations
- Economic: Acquire 20,000 gold and build the World Bank
- Technological: Research all technologies necessary to build and launch a space ship, and be the first to reach Alpha Centauri
My boyfriend, “my ninja” downloaded Civilization on his xBox 360 a few weeks ago and, for weeks now, has been alternatively cheering his victories and using very colorful language to express himself when his archers simply could not fend off an attacker’s catapults. I was attracted to the game because I could play the character Cleopatra and have generals bowing to me on the screen pretty frequently. I started up a character and began building the ancient Egyptian civilization.
A couple of nights a week, I stay up a little too late in my quest to conquer the world with my armies, by building my culture, by making money, or by developing my technology. I was getting ready for bed on one of these nights recently when I started thinking about how the game applies to life. Here are some of my take-aways:
- Ending a turn is like ending a day. You go to bed and wake up in the morning and can move a little further… and on paydays, you have a little more money. You have to make sure to fortify your territory though, because other players can move while you are asleep and you can’t leave your guard down
- The advisors in the game say really general things that don’t really add a lot of value. Fortunately, this isn’t true in my life very often but sometimes one has to interpret what someone is saying and what they are trying to tell you. Think about it. That makes sense.
- Even if the odds say that your army is going to win, you can still loose. I feel like you loose more often then you should when the odds are in your favor… and if that’s true, why don’t they just give you the real odds?
- Lastly, I was playing the novice version of the game, and ahead in all four categories. My ninja asked me how I wanted to win and I suddenly realized that I don’t know. I figured that I would just get as far down each path as I could and see what happened. It’s not very strategic, and I still don’t know how I want to win… I still haven’t finished that game…