Games with serious impacts: The next generation of serious games

MMOS and Eve Online

The speculation that games could be adapted and adopted rather than designed from scratch to engineer outcomes had been considered before, but when Attila Szantner, a co-founder of the pre-Facebook, Hungarian social media giant iWiW, considered the billions of hours being spent gaming in 2015, he decided to take action. Attila and his partner, Bernard Revazs, converted theory into practice by founding MMOS (Massively Multiplayer Online Science), which set out to apply the adapt-and-adopt approach for citizen science initiatives. In discussing citizen science and the perspective of MMOS on serious game design for this article, Attila demonstrated a grounded and realistic approach. He noted being inspired by previous work in designing serious games for research and education, particularly Zooniverse and other forms of “people-powered research.” Attila’s insights on the topic cautioned against the perception that the work of MMOS was entirely revolutionary—he claimed that there is no shortage of games designed for research and education and that their impacts should not be overlooked. The key difference between MMOS and these past endeavors however was that they avoided constructing any game from scratch, instead focusing on refining a recipe for turning players of existing games into “virtually limitless human computation engines for citizen science.” The recipe, or at least the outline for it, goes something like this:

  • Find games that players already love;
  • Find large-volume, modular research tasks (such as image and pattern classification);
  • Map the tasks to potential adaptations in-game that facilitate the crowdsourcing of those research tasks;
  • “Connect the dots with the in-game lore” to make the adaptations to the game “aesthetically fitting and thematically adoptable;” and
  • Inform the players that by playing the game they already love, they’re contributing to science and making an impact.

Attila wasn’t shy in stating that there was another factor in making this recipe work: developing a relationship with CCP, an Icelandic game company that runs EVE Online. In fact, the recipe itself was developed in part by EVE Online’s game design director at the time, Petur Thorarinsson. No short description of EVE can do it justice, but, in short, it is a space-focused MMO game in which players pilot and manage ships in a vast set of star systems known as “New Eden,” competing and cooperating in their attempts to control territory and earn money in a myriad of ways. EVE is one of the longest running MMOs of all time and is innovative for a number of reasons, but of interest here was CCP’s willingness to commit to and experiment with academic and scientific collaborations, evidenced by the fact that they employ an in-house economist.

Read Article: Atlantic Counsel 

 



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