There seems to be a new social change game in the works. Development is afoot for Emergence, a massively multi-player online game (MMOG) to be released in 2011.
The Backstory: A technical glitch in android programming causes the androids, the global mechanical labour force, to rebel against their human makers. A 12 hour war follows. Nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons employed by both sides leave the earth a shattered shell.
The few humans and the United Nations Global Environment Program that escaped this devastation now have the task of rebuilding a sustainable future. It is this world that Emergence is planning to throw all its players into. This game is not a competition to see who can cause most damage, instead:
Emergence is the first massively multiplayer online game to encourage diplomacy and social cooperation over violence … Players join one of seven competing factions and brave the chaos of this new dystopian world to rebuild a dying planet. Featuring a richly articulated scifi world, innovative gameplay, and an elaborately unfolding player-driven narrative in which players must cooperate to survive the hostile world of the future, Emergence represents a new and exciting paradigm in video game design.
Patrick Jagoda, one of the creators, explains the thinking and design principles behind the game in his Public Diplomacy and the Emergent Future of Massively Multiplayer Online Games article at HASTAC. There is also an interesting discussion on game mechanics at Design Observer.
Cooperation not competition. Creation not destruction. Conceptually this sounds fantastic. The video game devotee (ok, addict, but only a little bit :)) in me is excited. However, the social change enthusiast in me is not as psyched.
Too many social change games have come and gone without causing even a ripple in the gaming world. In many cases, social change games end up being… social change games are… OK, let us cut to the chase and say it: social change games are…boring! But that is a topic that has the potential to become a blog series of its own. This one is for Emergence and the hope that it succeeds and the fantastic concept and innovative game play stays intact through implementation phase.