Wednesday, March 07, 2007

The Future of Collective Play (report on GDC keynote)

Yesterday I gave my Research + Design keynote at GDC on the topic of "The Future of Collective Play."

CNET has a great summary of the talk in "Future games to harness gamers' collective wisdom".

Rather than posting complete notes from the talk here myself, I'll just excerpt from the intro and point to the online slides in a day or so from this blog:

Today, I’m going to talk to you about the future of collective play. By "future of collective play", I mean two things: first, the new kinds of collaborative games we might pioneer over the next decade, and second: the real-world future we might build for ourselves by playing more collectively.

Last fall, I left my position as lead designer at 42 Entertainment, a commercial game development company, to become the resident game designer for the Institute for the Future— an independent nonprofit research group based in Palo Alto. As a result, I am now officially the first person in the world to claim in my daily job description that “I design games from the future.” But, what exactly does it mean to design games from the future?

At the Institute, we develop long-term future forecasts to help companies, government agencies, and private foundations make better decisions today about the uncertain future. We create detailed, plausible, and internally consistent scenarios of how important emerging trends today might intersect and play out over the next decade. So, as the Institute’s new resident game designer, I spend a lot of time these days thinking about two questions: First, how are the specific kinds of games we choose to design and to play today most likely to impact our future culture? And second, what kinds of games will we need to play in the future in order to learn whatever social, technological, and organization skills emerge as the guiding principles of global culture?

Today, I’m going to argue that over the next ten years, a particular kind of digital game-- the massively collaborative puzzle genre known as alternate reality gaming -- will become increasingly important as both a way to imagine and engineer a best-case scenario future. Alternate reality gaming will also assume the role of a central cultural activity teaches and trains us to be successful and ethical actors in a global, networked culture--particulary as that culture is increasingly chaotic, democratic, commercial and cooperative.

So the problem I want to consider today is this: Can a computer game teach collective intelligence? I believe the answer to this question is absolutely, yes—and moreover, I believe that collective intelligence is the single most important thing we can be teaching through serious games as we attempt to build a better future, and to prepare for its uncertain challenges. Of course, this problem begs several additional questions: namely, why should we care about teaching collective intelligence? Who should be taught CI? How, exactly, does an alternate reality game teach CI? And, finally, what kind of future will we shape by playing alternate reality games?

[Come back in a couple days for the slides for the rest of the talk!]


Robin Sloan said...

Whoah! Effective teaser! Are you sure you don't want to just give the talk again and charge $5 to get in? I'm there...

Javier Marti said...

I am Javier, the founder of, a community of online amateur writers. We write about the future of everything, and I would like to invite you to join us and write an article on the website, perhaps "The future of collaborative play" there or whatever you are passionate about? It is up to you, you choose the subject.
You would get a link back when you link to your own article, if you wish.
You can even re-use some of what you have here, in the last part of the article, "your view and comments". That would save you time and still be interesting for readers.
And yes, I know you may not have the time. None of us do...;)

Failing that, if you like the project and you can help me to promote it and find writers/readers -even if you don't write- it would be great. Since we are starting, we need all and any help that you can give.
By making this valuable information available online for free, I truly believe we are helping to make the world a better place.
And you could do your bit for the world too.

Your help is appreciated, and if you let me know your contribution, you'll be rewarded appropriately in due time. If you link to us or mention us, we can link you back too.
You can even use our valuable articles on your websites, provided that you link back. Any better offer than that?! :)

Look forward to hearing from you or read your article in Trendirama! Join us writing an article!

Best regards
Javier Marti

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure about "teaching" collective intelligence. I'm even inclined to put it the other way around: our collective intelligence teaches us. Or: we can design games together on purpose to collaboratively discover our collective intelligence. We teach ourselves when we learn together.

Then the question becomes: what are the design elements of a making-the-game-together game?

J said...

Hey you have a great blog!


Ben Mack said...


I'm glad you are predicting the increased importance of ARGs.

Collaborative play will increase in importance as more and more people get more and more proficient at creating their own media.

Your thoughts appear to me as a logical extension of Everything Bad is Good For You-- as folks get more sophisticated they will want greater participation in the games they are discovering.

I was pinging Seth Godin about NiN's current rock Opera in the form of an ARG.

(this is shameless self promotion: For more details on Nine Inch Nail's 42nd ARG, please see my blog at...
Http:// thank you for your indulgence [getforgiven])

Question: Stanford's Persuasive '07, the academic seminar on Captology, Computers As Persuasive Technology... do you imagine ARGs could be seen as a captological device?


Binky Bear

Anonymous said...

Hi, Jane! This is Cherry from I Love Bees! Do you remember me? I hope you do! I was in the Portland axon team. War har! What fun!

Anyway, I'm really super excited about this talk you gave. Basically, I've been thinking lately... there's a lot of talk about distributed computing, you know, using spare cycles of powerful game machines to solve complicated mathematical problems. I think that's great, but there's another unused resource, the unused cycles of brilliant gamers and their brains honed to perfection by hours of gameplay. Because I was a part of ILB, I know that immensely complicated problems can be solved in a matter of hours by distributed _human_ computing, _even_ when most of our human resources were out chasing payphones (including me, that was a blast!). I'm now convinced that we could solve all the world's problems if we could turn this distributed problem-solving model massive and tap into all those unused brain-cycles of people whom I'm positive would be willing to spare a couple minutes each day to sharpen their brains and help the world.

So, it sounds like you've been thinking some of the same stuff! And since you were the community lead of ILB, I trust you more than anyone to see it through. Please! Help those spare brain-cycles solve all the world's problems. Thanks!

Yaaaay! --Cherry