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.