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Role Playing (Games) Games

Can a Video Game Solve Hunger, Disease and Poverty? 72

Posted by Soulskill
from the edible-games-are-the-future dept.
destinyland writes "Dr. Jane McGonigal of the RAND Corporation's Institute for the Future has created a game described as 'a crash course in changing the world.' Developed for the World Bank's 'capacity development' branch, EVOKE has already gathered more than 10,000 potential solutions from participants, including executives from Procter & Gamble and Kraft. '[Dr. McGonigal] takes threats to human existence — global food shortage, fuel wars, pandemic, refugee crisis, and upended democracy — and asks the gaming public to collaborate on how to avoid these all too possible futures.' And by completing its 10 missions, you too can become a World Bank Institute certified EVOKE social innovator. (The game designer's web site lays out her ambitious philosophy. 'Reality is broken,' but 'game designers can fix it.')"
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Can a Video Game Solve Hunger, Disease and Poverty?

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  • I know that when I am sitting on my computer playing games I don't eat often. I am only hungry when Its loading, but now that I have a fast computer loading times are too fast to grab something to eat.
  • by gmuslera (3436)
    Probably won't be the game, but wiith a bit of luck will the players the ones that will solve those problems. Never is the gun the one that kills and go to jail.
  • with enough energy you can solve any problem, and with universal good health people will be around to do the solving.
    • Sorry, but that sounds a bit naive to me. America is the model for 'enough energy' - it has had an abundance of cheap (to the point of being effectively free) energy for the last 50 years, and has not solved every problem - not even providing the 'universal good health' care to its citizens that you mention.

      If you gave cheap energy to the third world, I suspect it would just turn Bangladesh into Baltimore. Sanjeev would take his 5 kids to school in a 2 tonne SUV, they'd dine on drive-through Micky-D

      • by Rogerborg (306625)
        I agree. Sanjeev can't be trusted to make those sort of choices. Let's keep him impoverished until we can figure out how to make him smarter and less greedy than Joe Baltimore. I'm thinking maybe mass hypnosis, or perhaps put something in the water supply. What's your idea?
    • by Feyshtey (1523799)
      There are innumerable idiots in perfect health.

      Following a train of logic that suggest that a world full of healthy people equates to a world of smart people is entirely false. It only ensures a world where idiots have enough energy to pursue stupid plans longer.
  • I can't believe we didn't think of it before. The solution is so obvious!

    We just need to leave energy packs at strategic places and have checkpoints where we can save our status.

    Oh man. The world is going to be revolutionized by this!

    Wait wait! I just thought of another thing that would help. Spawn points. Holleee shit, Batman. We're through the looking glass now!

    • We just need to leave energy packs at strategic places ...

      We do that already. They're called "UN Aid stations" or "soup kitchens" for those without money. Those with higher levels of credits can use "restaurants", "grocery stores", or even procure player housing with built-in stations.

      ... and have checkpoints where we can save our status.

      There's an autosave but you can't restore.

      Wait wait! I just thought of another thing that would help. Spawn points.

      It's called a Hospital. That's also where they keep the health kits.

      • It's called a Hospital. That's also where they keep the health kits.

        Doesn't seem very secure. What happens if you have a camper sniping people at the hospital?

  • its all fun and games until someone makes a trainer for it, damn cheaters.
  • I mean the "science isn't in" on climate change, for example, so assumptions have to be made. If those assumptions are wrong, any solutions that worked in the game will be useless in reality.
  • I do not understand why these non-gamers or casual gamers think about changing the games all the time. I am an hardcore gamer and I will buy the product. Go save the real world not our fantastic world.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by mccalli (323026)
      I do not understand why these non-gamers or casual gamers think about changing the games all the time. I am an hardcore gamer and I will buy the product. Go save the real world not our fantastic world.

      Non-gamer - I've seen the TED talk she did, and she is most definitely a gamer of the 'hardcore' variety. Was actually quite funny to feel her relief when she realised some of the audience were gamers too and were getting some of the references she was making.

      Cheers,
      Ian
  • by Anonymous Coward

    I wanted to check it out for myself, so I clicked on the link in the summary. Alas, I was sent to a rather luridly written piece by a one "Surfdaddy Orca", which I was certainly not looking for.
    Thus, I have googled it for you, dear reader, and thus present without (much) further ado ... the link to the Evoke game's website itself!

    http://www.urgentevoke.com/

  • Write a video game, make some money. Give your money to the people starving to death. The laws of Supply and Demand basically say that if you make more people with higher demand, supply will be made to reach it. There is enough land on Earth to feed everyone if it was farmed, but it isn't farmed because you can't get rich feeding people with no money.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by BadAnalogyGuy (945258)

      What is the incentive to grow and sell food if the UN is going to give food away for free to your customers?

      • by migla (1099771)

        What is the incentive to grow and sell food if the UN is going to give food away for free to your customers?

        Obviously the food has to come from somewhere. Whether the food you produce is paid for by the UN, the starving poor people or someone else, you still get paid.

  • by Trepidity (597) <delirium-slashdo ... g ['kis' in gap]> on Wednesday April 07, 2010 @02:50AM (#31758504)

    I sort of research in this area (only sorta, but enough to keep up and know about half the people in it). So I can't help but throw out some additional resources, which you can interpret as "stuff I like".

    FWIW, the general idea is usually referred to as "serious games" [wikipedia.org], with a bunch of terms like "persuasive games", "games for change", "games with a purpose", "political games", "news games", etc. having more specific meanings.

    I personally rather like Ian Bogost's [bogost.com] book [amazon.com] on the subject, which, contrary to a lot of stuff in this space, is more measured in talking about both the possible benefits and likely pitfalls. Although I love the idea and think it has a lot of promise, I've got to admit most attempts to make "serious" or "political" or "world-changing" games fall flat. Anyone played McCain's 2004 campaign game, "John Kerry Tax Invaders"? It's exactly what you think it is: a space-invaders clone with John Kerry tax bills coming down at you, in place of aliens. Hilarious, but kind of stupid. So I think it's important to not be fan-boyish about it, and figure out what would make the medium actually flourish for these sorts of purposes. (FWIW, Bogost also has a former blog [bogost.com] on "games with an agenda", and a interesting Colbert appearance [colbertnation.com]).

    An interesting precursor is Chris Crawford's [wikipedia.org] 1980s games, which tackled subjects like the Cold War and the environment in interesting ways. He's now giving away a .txt of a book [erasmatazz.com] describing the design behind Balance of Power (1986), still something of a high-water mark in combining the simulation genre with attempts to really make people think about the real world.

    For more recent games, specifically in response to news events, some of which have activist content and some of which are just commentary, there's also a newsgame index [gatech.edu]. In addition, there's a recent paper [digra.org] discussing whether and how newsgames might become the 21st century's equivalent of political cartoons.

    • I'm super-serial [wikipedia.org] here. The purpose of these games isn't to teach people to think up original solutions, it's to indoctrinate them into the groupthink of the person that commissioned the game, and decided the rules and the criteria for winning.

      Maybe that makes players think about the issue, but that's incidental. Rewarding Goodthink does not make for radical "solutions" like (for example) Lovelock's answer to the alleged climate change problem: build walls round the big cities and "enjoy life while you c [bbc.co.uk]

      • by beatsme (1472991)
        Did you even read the article or look at the game the article is about? The objectives and actions in the game are far too open-ended to be called a groupthink training program like some of the others in the genre may be.
  • Nnnnnnno. (Score:1, Flamebait)

    by SheeEttin (899897)

    Can a Video Game Solve Hunger, Disease and Poverty?

    Nnnnnnno.
    A video game can't. People can.

    [Dr. McGonigal] takes threats to human existence [...] and asks the gaming public to collaborate on how to avoid these all too possible futures.

    Um... I don't even need a game. Let's take a look at... Oh, Africa.
    Problem: Little economy, disease, etc. (Ignoring the issue of "poverty"--just because they don't live like us doesn't mean it's a problem. Also education: exactly why do you need Western education to farm?

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Ignoring the issue of "poverty"--just because they don't live like us doesn't mean it's a problem.

      Poverty in this case means starvation and death rather than not having a Wii.

      Also education: exactly why do you need Western education to farm? But I digress.

      Because farming requires education. Otherwise the farmers use slash and burn tactic which cause irreparable long term damage to their own land. It also allows for an infrastructure to be maintained, a proper government to exist, provided basic knowledge of medicine (ie: condoms bloody work), a working democratic process and so on.

      Trying to fix the "problems" without going for the true underlying causes is how you end up with the sh

  • Games are most effective at making participating players aware of subtle issues in a complex interconnected system. Games can promote awareness of an issue, but not a solution.
    • I think "activist games" aren't really the future, but games that make people think about interrelationships are. Even Sim City has a lot of subtle elements to it, and it wasn't even intended as a "serious" game.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by DaveV1.0 (203135)

      Except for the part where the game designer gets to choose how the "subtle issues" are connected in a "complex interconnected system", I am sure you are right.

      Take that stupid "kill the terrorist and make more terrorists" game. The group that made said game had an agenda and the rules of their game did not conform to reality but rather to their agenda. Their game ignored the fact that terrorists kill people, so the terrorists in the game never formed their own group of enemies.

      Your post should be:

      Games can

  • by Rogerborg (306625) on Wednesday April 07, 2010 @03:24AM (#31758618) Homepage
    Level up! You are now 100% Ecomental-Think compliant!
  • by 91degrees (207121)
    Okay, next question
  • I'm sorry, but you're too late. World poverty is already history thanks to Bob [wikipedia.org]. But there's still some of the world's diseases up for grabs, but the downside is you have to be able to sing...
  • by zoeblade (600058) on Wednesday April 07, 2010 @05:51AM (#31759096) Homepage

    Here's her TED Talk [ted.com] on the subject.

  • Solve them? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Kuukai (865890) on Wednesday April 07, 2010 @06:13AM (#31759184) Journal
    Video game designers have a hard enough time creating hunger, disease, and poverty. At least realistically. You don't see part of Liberty City get poorer as drug lords thrive. You don't see the bums lunge at the hot dog carts. In X zombie game you don't see the virus spread through an un-inoculated population.

    Maybe that's why the game looks a lot more like a comic book with a bulletin board system...
    • by bFusion (1433853)

      Video game designers have a hard enough time creating hunger, disease, and poverty.

      I dunno, whenever I play WoW for days at a time, I tend to end up hungry, filthy and (at least intellectually and emotionally) broke.

  • These are global and complexly interwoven problems. Any solution coming out from the game is going to be a locally optimized solution and if these were good, we would not be in the current fix.

    Then there is the problem of implementation. The fix to global warming is easy: Stop burning all that fossil fuel. Unfortunately, we would needed to have implemented 10 years ago, what we did know 20 years ago. Now we will get global warming with hunger, war and death coming along and it is essentially too late to do

  • Everyone that looks upon humanity and calls it broken is a dictator wanting to be born. They want to meddle in people's lives, arrange them like so many dominos, and then proclaim the carnage they have created as fixed. I wish these madmen and madwomen for once would have the self honesty to admit that they are the ones that are broken, because they hate a free people.

  • Our leaders have failed to confront the fact that technology is eliminating jobs ever more quickly. We are
    fast reaching the point where pay checks will come from the government, machines will do the work, corporations will compete with ever more robotic produced goods.
    The social pecking order must be preserved. Requiring that a portion of one's government check be wagered on game success would maintain our social structure. Play would be mandat

  • World needs food badly.
  • I've been trying to stare down, Chuck Norris style, this conundrum for the better part of a decade. Ultimately I end up back at Otto Jespersen's dictum that a problem is best canvassed from all sides, but, perhaps it's best to first know if the side you pick is from inside or outside the box. If you're inside the box, maybe it's your home in some back alley, and you're profoundly constrained by the conditions of the box, then, any possible side you choose in order to implement your solution, is still going

  • The barriers in the developing world are not things like poverty and disease; those are the symptoms. It's social problems like corruption, over-bearing governments, aristocrats with no sense of noblesse oblige to the common man, inefficient and ineffective legal systems and other things which make the development of those societies to western standards exceedingly difficult.
    • It's social problems like corruption, over-bearing governments, aristocrats with no sense of noblesse oblige to the common man, inefficient and ineffective legal systems and other things which make the development of those societies to western standards exceedingly difficult.

      Many of these elements are measured in indexes of Economic Freedom, such as the Heritage / WSJ [heritage.org] index or the Fraser Institute [freetheworld.com] Economic Freedom of the World project.

      Where you have poverty, disease, and low economic growth, you tend to hav

  • "No".

    Next question, please.

    .

  • Give me a break. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by MaWeiTao (908546) on Wednesday April 07, 2010 @10:48AM (#31761328)

    To me this is more simplistic, idealistic tripe. This is a more sophisticated variation of the stupid notion that love can save the world and we all just need to get along; something routinely conveyed in popular music. It's feel-good nonsense that provides no real solutions.

    I'll grant you, the world does need these kind of idealists. This world would be a worse place without them. That said, all these problems have already been solved. Religion at it's core teaches humanity almost everything it needs know to solve these problems. Countless researchers and scientists have also devised innumerable practical solutions.

    The problem, when it comes down to it, is human nature. These problems haven't been resolved and will never be resolved because of human nature. It doesn't matter what system of government or any other social system you impose on the people. People will find a way to exploit it. And far too often one group ends up being oppressed, financially, politically or socially, for the sake of another. Everything inevitably gets corrupted, including the aforementioned religion.

    If people were totally selfless and honest we wouldn't even need a sociopolitical because all problems would solve themselves. But people aren't like that, so the most effective system is the one that accounts for human nature but is able to channel that energy in altruistic ways. Easier said than done. And of course this does nothing for disease which is something we'll be dealing with no matter how good people are to each other. It isn't a matter of saying fix it and it's done.

  • A basic income would eliminate poverty (and was endorsed by Nobel Prize winners):
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Basic_income [wikipedia.org]
    http://www.basicincome.org/bien/aboutbasicincome.html [basicincome.org]
    http://www.usbig.net/ [usbig.net]
    http://www.pdfernhout.net/basic-income-from-a-millionaires-perspective.html [pdfernhout.net]
    The right amount of vitamin D would reduce sick care costs by maybe a third in industrialized countries:
    http://www.lewrockwell.com/sardi/sardi111.html [lewrockwell.com]
    h [vitamindcouncil.org]

  • I had a friend who joined the peace corps who is now stationed in Honduras. She single-handedly created programs to improve the education of the youth within the village she worked. Problem was, while the kids enjoyed her work, she was the only one willing to offer help and continue the programs. Her time with the Peace Corps will be ending soon and she feels that she'll be leaving them in the state that they were before she got there. It's as if the folks in this particular village accepted aid but weren't
  • Aren't they working in conjunction with the saucer people in a plot to eliminate dinner?

  • She's a nummy treat.

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