Monday, March 01, 2010

Video: Gaming to solve Africa's problems

A game developer has created a new game that will immerse players into the problems of Africa. Jane McGonigal has created an online game called "Urgent Evoke" that will have players volunteering, researching or making businesses.

From CNN, McGougal explains her new game.

CNN reporter John D. Sutter touches on the game's collaboration with the World Bank.

Bob Hawkins, senior education specialist with the World Bank Institute, said one big reason people in African countries aren't as entrepreneurial and innovative as those in the West is that they don't feel as empowered to create change. That's largely why his international development group is funding McGonigal's project to the tune of $500,000.

"There have been studies, for instance, in South Africa that the public investment in universities isn't producing the types of new ideas and innovation that industry wants," he said. "What happens is that industry is importing ideas from outside the continent and outside of South Africa."

He hopes Urgent Evoke will empower people in Africa to change their own futures. This game will act as a kind of hyper-engaged online social network, he said, setting people in the developing world up with contacts in Europe, the United States and elsewhere who may offer insight or even cash.

An unannounced number of game "winners" will be given mentorships, internships, start-up money and scholarships for playing the game.

Urgent Evoke gamers follow a story that's presented each week like a comic book online. The central figure of the Evoke narrative is a mysterious character who spots the world's big problems and sends out "Urgent Evoke" messages to a team of game players on Wednesdays, asking for help.

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.

Players catalogue their activities and submit the evidence in the form of a blog post, a video or a photo, which players post on the Urgent Evoke Web site.

Other people in the game network read these posts and, if they feel the player has done a good job, can award them further power-ups in a number of categories like creativity, collaboration, sustainability and courage.

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