Thursday, February 22, 2007

Massively multi-citizen science is almost here

Can a game developer be nominated for a Nobel Prize in one of the sciences by the year 2032? That's my plan, which I presented this past weekend at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

You can download the slides from my talk, or read the related research paper (hot off the press!), or peruse some related links, on my AAAS webpage here. (Or see what Newsday took away from it here.)

My goal over the next decade is to support the development of a massively multi-citizen science through massively collaborative games (think: alternate reality games with real-world data embedded inside.)

So in the near future, when the most creative, collective-intelligence gamers are grinding away 10, 20, 30, or more hours a week, they're grinding on real scientific research problems wrapped inside a yummy fictive or fantasy shell.

Yes, I am calling for a truly popular scientific research practice that engages the global public in hands-on, brains-on collaboration, via sites Citizen Science and Amazon's Mechanical Turk and through immersive, story-driven play. Amateur participation + a creative commons for science literature + the stickiness of a well-designed game and well-told story = radically interdisciplinary mash-ups accessible to lay people and productive of real scientific insight.

Sound crazy? No way. This is seriously possible, and plausible. Here's three reasons why:

1) Science practice itself is increasingly leaning toward a kind of collective intelligence, amateur participation. You can read about it in the incredible Institute for the Future report: Delta Scan: The Future of Science and Technology, 2005-2055.

2) Meanwhile, there is no doubt -- as I argue in my new 50-page case study for the MacArthur foundation -- that alternate reality gamers are doing real CI investigations that would fully prepare them for real-world collaborative research. Their gameplay is already fundamentally a CI scientific effort to undertand fake (fictive) data. I'm just proposing that we shove some real scientific data in there, while they're at it.

3) And perhaps most importantly, as Sean Stewart - the original and most esteemed alternate reality storyteller around - has famously said: "I do NOT assert that [alternate reality gaming] is the first, or greatest, example of massively multi-player collaborative investigation and problem solving. Science, as a social activity promoted by the Royal Society of Newton's day and persisting to this moment, has a long head start and a damn fine track record.... We just accidentally re-invented Science as pop culture entertainment."

So, yes, If this sounds interesting, get the slides. And here are a couple of other sites to get you thinking: "Fostering Scientific Habits of Mind in the Context of Online Play" and MacArthur Spotlight on Digital Media & Learning.

If you want to propose a data set, scientific problem, or research focus for a massively multi-citizen science game, or if you want to be notified when there's such a game to be played, email me at jane @ thenameofthisblog dot com.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Play With Me: March 2 San Francisco Game!

cruel2bkind logo
Originally uploaded by Avant Game.
March 2, 2007 is the world premiere of the new, improved Cruel 2 B Kind – the game of benevolent assassination - now, with booty! It’s happening 6 – 7:30 PM on a Friday evening in SOMA, San Francisco, and I really want you to play. And I know YOU really want you to take over SOMA like the nice little ninjas you are, and kill other players (and unsuspecting bystanders) with kindness.

You can sign up now. (You have to register by noon on March 2 to play.) What are you waiting for? Sign up! It’s free, it’s outdoors, it’s crazy, and there might be cupcakes! (Okay, there WILL be cupcakes!) What more could you ask for?

Well, okay, here’s more: I’ll be there live puppet mastering, with a few surprises for keen-eyed players. (So if you spot me wandering the streets and attack me, you might get a little bonus fun…)

For all you experienced C2BK players out there, here’s a secret scoop: This new remake of Cruel 2 B Kind is extra awesome. It’s extra awesome. Here’s why:

- It’s called the Booty Variant, and it represents everything we’ve learned from running the game in London, Boston, New York City, and more. We watched you play, we learned stuff, and we made the game more fun.

-It’s easier technology: You can play with any cell phone, using normal text messaging. And there’s a lot less messaging than in older versions, so the play is focused more on the streets and less on your screen.

-It’s more strategic: Your team has 3 weapons to choose from at all times, so you get to decide exactly how to kill each target. You also get to show off the weapons you like best and ignore weapons you’re not so keen on.

-It’s less obvious: Instead of everyone starting the game in teams of two, players can now choose to start the game solo, or in teams of two, or three, or more… so it will be a lot less obvious who’s playing and who’s not playing.

-It’s sillier: Each player brings a piece of “booty” to surrender when killed. Anything goes when it comes to the booty - yummy candy, weird haikus, cool old books, crazy stickers, lucky socks… you can make your booty whatever you want. There’s only one rule: no sentient creatures! Players get to keep all booty they’ve earned at the end of the game.

-It rewards good game play better: When a player gets killed, they surrender their booty the player whose attack impressed them most. So players who are doing an awesome job killing with kindness rack up more booty, and therefore more points. No more slouching at the back of your pack… you have to be in the frontlines, assassinating your ass off!

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

The Free Candy Game - You MUST play with me on Valentine's Day!

I know the secret puppet masters of this very cool little puzzle game. It's called FreakAndie (yes, think: free candy!) and if you're in the San Francisco area on Valentine's Day, you can play. In fact, I really want you to play.

It's a one-day only game. It's free, it's public, and it's art.

Here's the deal: solve this visual poem puzzle to figure out the what, when, where, how and why of the game. (Hint: it involves subversive heart-shaped blinking LED displays embedded in public. Yes, really.)

The best part: if you solve the puzzle and come play, you'll be perfectly located and on time for the second annual valentine's day Public Pillow Fight. That's right -- two playful spectacles for the FREE price of one!

See you in the city for free candy and pillow fighting!

P.S. If you can't figure out the puzzle, IM me and I'll give you a hint. :) I'm on AIM as my webdomain name.