|Posted on September 30, 2012 at 7:00 AM|
By Deepa Mehta, Research Manager, Institute for the Future
At the Institute for the Future, we help organizations think strategically about the future. We make this happen with a variety of tools - from research to design to in-person engagements.
Games are powerful tools to immerse people into the future. From SuperStruct to Catalysts for Change, we have designed over 20 online games that have engaged thousands of players in the past five years or so. Games provide a sense of personal agency though a narrative arc that engages the user with a set of experiences. As our colleague Jane McGonigal tells us, games provide us with urgent optimism, a stronger social fabric, blissful productivity, and the chance for the epic win. Here are some key insights we've learned about games over the years.
A few weeks ago, we led an in-person, two-day futures learning journey that we called The Future Now. For our theme on the future of engagement and human-content interaction, we wanted our guests to engage with the future today, so that they could draw their own insights that could lead to possible actions. To make this happen, we began tinkering with the idea of a digital safari to create an experience around the future of engagement. We thought about including apps that explore everything from augmented reality to locative media to social discovery to mobile payments -- each fostering engagement in a different way.
How would our experience look? How would we share these apps? What would be the narrative arc to link each of them? What would be a participant's incentive to even use any of these apps? What would make this digital safari fun? In another words, could we turn our digital safari into a game? Inspired by Seth Priebatsch's desire to build a "game layer on top of the world", we started thinking about this digital safari as a lens into the future of downtown Palo Alto and reached out to SCVNGR to get started.
When we were designing the trek, the challenges came in selecting places that were interesting, making sure our apps worked when we got there, and that our activities were meaningful. We put together a field guide that provided background information and how-to's for each app and set out on our SCVNGR-powered digital safari.
Our guests divided up into teams, and our trek included about a dozen places. Each challenge asked questions based on a core workshop theme or an in-field finding. Each challenge included an element of the future of engagement. For example, participants used the augmented reality app Stiktu to create virtual, location-based layers of art and information. Or they connected with their contacts and some even made new friends using the social discovery tool Banjo. Or they found a secret garden where they checked in and meditated using Buddhify and then reported their post-meditation insights. Each team immersed themselves in the challenges and were on a mission to win!
At the end of our two-day immersive learning journey, we handed out prizes to each team. One team did get the prize for most points, though other teams won points for most challenges completed, or most thoughtful responses, or most miles walked (one of the apps was the quantified self app EndoMondo). We then linked each of the four wins to a unique future leadership skill from Leaders Make the Future.
While the digital safari was only one part of our futures journey, the SCVNGR app gave us the chance to make the experience even more immersive and gameful. In turn, the future became even more tangible for each participant.
SCVNGR transformed each smartphone into a passport to the future, enabling the sense of personal agency and urgent optimism for each participant. Designing the trek gave us the chance to design a new reality with an alternative sense of purpose where completing each challenge led to a sense of blissful productivity. As we told teams from the outset: there was no one way to win. The combination of challenges and check-ins at multiple locations enabled a series of possibilities for epic wins throughout the digital safari. Lastly, we found that this positive gameful engagement created new shared experiences, strengthening social fabric.
While SCNGR makes the basic ingredients of a game readily available to anyone, SCVNGR is more than a fun tool to design scavenger hunts. As we saw in our own digital safari, the true power of SCVNGR emerges when the app is used in combination with an underlying mission and the surrounding locale -- creating a narrative for each subsequent challenge. At its best, SCVNGR is a dynamic way to organize information, communicate, and collaborate in a way that enables serendipity and many possible visions of the future.
About the Institute for the Future
The Institute for the Future is an independent, nonprofit strategic research group celebrating more than 40 years of forecasting experience. The core of our work is identifying emerging trends and discontinuities that will transform global society and the global marketplace. We provide our members with insights into business strategy, design processes, innovation, and social dilemmas. Our research spans a broad territory of deeply transformative trends, from health and heath care to technology, the workplace, and human identity. The Institute for the Future is located in Palo Alto, California.