Many of us love to unwind in our down time by stepping into one virtual world or another. Whether we prefer to build our own reality in Minecraft, leap about with friends playing Wii Sports, or blow off steam immersed in Grand Theft Auto, we tend to think of gaming as a guilty pleasure, or a fun form of self indulgence! There are, however, an impressive array of organisations and individuals all around the world who are on a mission to do more with virtual environments. Some are breaking down cultural barriers, while others are aiming to positively impact mental health. Some are using digital realms to fight oppression, and inspire future generations. Read on to discover how much more our affection for gaming has to offer than simple entertainment!
Harnessing The Power Of Gaming
Back in 2010, a game designer called Jane McGonigal stood on a Ted stage to give a talk about changing the world through virtual play. McGonigal had been working on a series of projects with the Institute For The Future, with the goal to “make it as easy to save the world in real life as it is to save the world in online games”. Some impressive statistics were serving as sparks to drive her mission forward. She drew on data of the time from the immensely popular online game, World Of Warcraft. “So far,” she explained, “collectively all the World of Warcraft gamers have spent 5.93 million years solving the virtual problems of Azeroth.” To give this number a sense of scale, McGonigal shared that 5.93 million years ago was just about when our earliest primate human ancestors stood up. Undeniably, that was a lot of time spent by humanity within just one virtual world! The question is, what could be achieved if all of that time spent could somehow be harnessed?
Now, that wasn’t the only incredible number McGonigal had come armed with. She spoke of Malcolm Gladwell’s theory that 10,000 hours is the number of applied hours that must be put into something in order for us to become an expert. As it happened, at the time of the Ted Talk, the average young person in a country with a strong gamer culture was spending 10,000 hours playing online games before they reached the age of 21. McGonigal was fascinated by what gamers were actually becoming expert at, and while developing some games of her own — each with a moral mission — she developed some inspiring theories. McGonigal concluded that gamers are virtuosos at four things: the first being urgently optimism; the second being weaving a tight social fabric; the third being working hard, when given the right work; and the last was finding epic meaning — being attached to awe-inspiring missions and human planetary-scale stories. Sounds good, right? Apparently McGonigal was on to something, because since her talk, virtual spaces have been springing up with just these kinds of save the world agendas behind them.
Fostering Human Connection Through Play
In the second Sudanese Civil War, a couple fled Bor, making a 200 mile journey to refuge. Along that arduous quest towards safety, their son Lual Mayen was born. Lual was destined to begin his life as a refugee, but he was also destined to use his experiences to change the lives of others, through gaming. After building his first video game in a refugee camp, Lual travelled the world speaking about the power of video games for peace, and created the gaming company Junub Games. This year, their master work to date — a game called Salaam — is set to launch. Salaam is a high-tension runner game that puts players in the shoes of a refugee forced to flee a war torn region. The game aims to humanise refugees, and positively shift mindsets. Simultaneously, when players purchase food, water, and medicine in Salaam, they are also providing supplies to people living in real-world refugee camps.
Enlisting Gamers In The Name Of Science
When it comes to problem solving, sometimes many minds are greater than some. This was the concept behind the creation of Foldit — a crowdsourced computer game that allows players to contribute to important scientific research. Back in 2011, Foldit players made history by solving a molecular puzzle that had stumped scientists for a decade. It took them — wait for it — only ten days! The research, which was a vital step within efforts to develop new ways to tackle the AIDS virus, was solved thanks to the gamification of protein structure prediction. Today, Foldit has asked it’s players to shift their attention to combatting the Coronavirus. Several Coronavirus challenges in, those taking on the current task are endeavouring to design a protein that might halt the “cytokine storm”. This is the detrimental overreaction of the body’s immune response that can be triggered by Covid-19, which can result in organ damage, and potentially become life threatening.
Virtually Enhancing Our Understanding Of Mental Illness
One of the greatest challenges in terms of mental health has always been establishing mutual understanding of conditions that only present inwardly. Game development studio Ninja Theory set about turning the tables with their Norse Mythology themed dark fantasy game, Hellblade. Players control the character Senua, who suffers from psychosis. With their assistance, Senua must navigate through stunning landscapes, and fearsome battles, while in the grips of hallucination, delusion, and voices in her head. The exquisitely detailed game environments and complex puzzles make for stimulating gaming. Meanwhile, Ninja Theory worked closely with neuroscientists, mental health specialists, and people suffering from the condition, to give players a real insight into what the experience of psychosis is like.
Side-Stepping Censorship In Virtual Spaces
In a world where freedom of information is a luxury only enjoyed by some, a collaborative project has set out to even the score in the least expected of places! Minecraft holds the crown as the best selling video game of all time. Within it, players explore a blocky, procedurally-generated 3D world, mining materials, constructing environments of their own, and diving into combat. As of 2019, over 112 million monthly active players were delving into this evidently captivating virtual world. Perhaps this is why Reporters Without Borders decided to collaborate with game developers BlockWorks, DDB Berlin, and MediaMonks, to create The Uncensored Library. This spectacularly grand structure exists not in the real world, but in the world of Minecraft. It exists to house censored documents as an attempt to circumvent censorship in countries without freedom of the press. At present, the library holds banned reporting from Mexico, Russia, Vietnam, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt, with a virtual wing dedicated to each country.
Facilitating Your Own Transformation With GRAYLL
With projects such as GRAYLL in mind, it becomes clear that the greatest limit we place upon ourselves is simply failing to allow our imagination to carry us towards our potential. When humanity is bold, it truly does create the extraordinary! Allow your time to be inspired — whether it’s time spent gaming, or changing the world. GRAYLL envisioned creating an App that would allow their people to generating income without time investment. Discover a new world of digital finance, in which you can harness cutting-edge Artificial Intelligence to grow large or small investments, and create wealth that will allow you to enjoy unique experiences with your time.
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