Gaming Our Way to Sustainability

WorldChanging points us to a report on a workshop at the California Institute for Telecommunications and Information Technology in May with the goal “to create a massively multi-player 21st-century online game inspired by Buckminster Fuller’s visionary World Game.” I must admit that I’m not nearly as familiar with Fuller as I probably should be, but this sounds fascinating:

In the 1980s – fueled by Fuller’s claims that there were enough resources on the planet to sustain a growing population – his colleagues created a multi-player, hands-on simulation called World Game Workshops. Played on a world map the size of a basketball court, the game was a unique and immersive visualization of the Earth and a simulation of its complex systems. It gave players an opportunity to solve global-scale problems by using prudent design and good science. Players worked to develop the world’s technology and resource use while maintaining the Earth’s ecological integrity. Fuller envisioned Spaceship Earth as a metaphor for understanding the earth as a closed-life support system for which we are all crew members and stewards.

Fast forward 25 years. The Buckminster Fuller Institute and Calit2’s Game Culture and Technology Lab collaborate on designing a new game for a much more sophisticated audience. Recognizing the potential of digital networked technology and cutting-edge scientific simulation and visualization techniques, they held a two-day design “charrette,” May 11-13, to create a blueprint for a game inspired by the World Game and Spaceship Earth concepts.

The designers’ challenge was to create an online game that would use real-world Earth and planetary system science data and real-time Earth Science visualization tools, while appealing to gamers’ sense of fun. Ultimately, Spaceship Earth players should be able to explore environmental scenarios to understand how geophysical systems and events can be altered through individual action, shifts in industrial practice, changes in environmental policy and other events.

Can a game inspire people to change their lifestyles? Fuller certainly thought so, and once this MMPG gets up and running, it will be very interesting to see how well it fares amongst gamers. My step-son spends hours a day on these kinds of games, so maybe I can convert him… Gil Friend adds his experience with less technologically cool but equally important games in the early ’70s.

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Books by Buckminster Fuller at Powell’s

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