I’m not completely certain of what to make of this. But there’s been a UK Serious Games event (link not working as I’m writing this – EXTREMELY annoying) and among the participants have been Nokia, BP and McDonalds Interactive – that turns out to be a hoax, which to be honest infuriorated me to begin with. I’m a believer of serious games and I didn’t like anyone taking the piss out of the event. But after further review, I have to say that I’m overwhelmingly impressed and I also can’t think of a better way to actually promote Serious Games.
Andrew Shimery-Wolf (ehm…), Director of McDonalds’s Interactive gave a presentation which he entitled “The Most Serious Game”. And I truely believe the clue lies in one of his opening remarks about what McDonalds was doing to improve:
“…we undertook to become a more visibly responsible company, and adopted a platform of Corporate Social Responsibility, or CSR – just like Nokia and BP, who are also represented at this conference.
Much as Nokia have pledged not to exploit Far East workers, and BP are exploring alternative fuels, so we responded to various critics by looking “beyond beef” on our menus, trying new packaging, and even experimenting with environment-friendly refrigeration.” (links added by me)
So he ends up presenting a game which was a simulation of the fast-food marketplace.
“This is the game that resulted. Players adopt the avatar of a fast-food company, and make business decisions in highly accelerated time. The game calculates the effects of those decisions on the overall market, collates them with other players’ decisions and rewards the best players with profits.”
Now…the rest of the presentation, in my opinion at least, pretty much sums up what Corporate Social Responsibility really should be. And in the process giving a slap to those who use it as an advertising gimmick, which Nokia and BP surely are an example of – and what better corporation than McDonald’s to represent the banality of it all.
And he does this soooooo wonderfully! Using gameplay as an option! In my opinion it’s a great hoax – yet says so much about what gaming technology (yes…that’s the wording I’m choosing on this one) can teach us! Oh dear! I still haven’t explained what actually happened have I? Sorry!
Well…let me see if I can sum it up! Players did great! They thrived and made the company a whole lotta money. But the company itself wasn’t learning anything so they put in an environmental sim to the game – which ended up representing the end of the world in 2050 because of:
# Accelerating beef production was raising the levels of greenhouse-gas CO2 considerably, through burning of forest and pastureland, for example.
# Ever-increasing transport needs were also generating more CO2.
# The ever-more-numerous cows were generating many millions more tons of methane, a greenhouse gas dozens of times more powerful than CO2.
# The production of animal feed in the Amazon was deforesting one of the primary sources of CO2 absorption.
# These activities were cueing the simulation of other industries too, leading to more gas production there as well.
And there’s a few sweet comments about how they tried to tell the ‘gamers’ to be more envornmentally concious – but they soon realised that gamers only played to win! So they had to implement some stuff:
# There was to be no deforestation whatsoever
# Only 30% of previous emissions would be allowed – no easy-out “emissions trading,” either.
# “Real costs” of throwaway materials, etc. would be charged as taxes, and there was also a “hard-coded” limit as well.
Isn’t that beautiful? It’s just…beautiful!!! And from what I understand they’re using this game as an example of what needs to be done! Economy can not rule the world – regulations need to be enforced.
“It worked. Players found ways to grow food locally, shift the menu from beef to grain products, replace all packaging with reusables, etc. And although profits were immediately lower, and the heady frenesy of earlier versions was lost, at least the games lasted beyond the century, for the most part. As a side effect, the economics sim showed global poverty and hunger going down!”
What an amazing way to prove a point!
More genious minds have reported on this, among them being: Raph Koster, Wonderland , Gamasutra and ofcourse the amazing Water Cooler Games. They’re more indepth than I, so I recommend taking a look!
Slides from the presentation (which is where I’ve stolen the really cool picture above) here. They’re really cool! You really should have a look! They’re entertaining and yet…I understand how someone could take them seriously! It’s really a true piece of art!
As for who’s behind it? My personal favourite is The Yes Men – but I’ll leave the speculation up to you, because I really don’t care! It’s the point that’s relevant to me!
And by the by! Talking about sims games has made me think of Nils’ absolutely fabulous work on The Quito Project! I’m so extremely proud to be a part of a department that produces such great stuff! Hope he’s not emberressed by me mentioning it in this post though! Have no fear – it’s sooooo much greater than anything produced on this blog!