Social networking for the greater good

09 Mar 2009|Leigh Marinner

Many people think of social networks as posting photos of the latest party on Facebook or “tweeting” about the sandwich you just ate. But there are many other great ideas for harnessing the skills and energy of a group of people online.

The Economist this week reported that The Institute for the Future, a non-profit research organization used an alternative reality game to evaluate future scenarios with the help of thousands of players. In 2007’s “World Without Oil”, for example, players worked together to determine what humanity would do in a severe oil crisis. (Many of its conclusions were validated when the oil price spiked in 2008.) Last September the British Red Cross launched “Traces of Hope”, a game with 7,000 active players and a storyline about a Ugandan teenager searching for his mother during a civil war. The purpose was to raise awareness about the people affected by civil wars in Africa.

I see an opportunity to build great interactive games, more akin to a good popular novel than to current videogames, written by good writers, with deep character development, and focused on a social goal.

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