Games and politics 2.0

Had a lovely brainstorm yesterday with Nicole Lazzaro about the connection between game design and politics 2.0. Nicole is a game designer and theorist whose new games are coming out soon. Her games combine entertainment with sustainability themes, and her company is devoted to the triple bottom line.
The new forms of social network political engagement have attributes of games. Whether it’s Beth Kanter’s Birthday Cause to raise money to send Cambodian kids to college or the Courage Campaign’s Please don’t divorce us collaborative photo album, organizers are leveraging social incentive to affect actions and attitudes.
Nicole’s focus is in the emotion of game design, which is particularly important for social action. When implementing game design for social change, do you stimulate empathy (the Please don’t divorce us Campaign), catalyze peer pressure to contribute (Kanter’s Cause), or trigger disgust at behavior you want to be socially unacceptable (like, say, throwing out recyclables).
Social movements take advantage of the technology of their time; the international anti-slavery and women’s rights movements were facilitated by international mail service and ocean transport that was low-cost and safe enough for activists to occasional travel and meet.
Meanwhile, today’s mainstream social action and political campaigns are still in the world of big fundraising, massmedia and bulk email, and haven’t yet gotten the coordinated social network mojo of the Obama campaign, let alone the grass roots improvisatory spark of Join the Impact. This seems like a world of opportunity.
I’m not the target audience for Nicole’s current games, though I think they are beautiful and cool. (Sorry Nicole). I’m not about to re-test my ability to play computer games while holding down a job and carrying other social obligations. And even Nicole’s gentle social incentives aren’t quite enough for me. I’m much more driven to play and create real-life, nomic games that affect the social and natural 3d world. And I see some pretty powerful ways of connecting Nicole’s principles with that.

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