Tag Archives: Disaster response

The Internet Response League: Pokemon Division?

 

pokemon-go-5

Pokemon GO is an interesting phenomenon – it is extremely relevant to the ideas posted on this blog, and to gamification in general. To start, the gameplay involves going outside, physically tracking down pokemon (think digital animals), and then catching them. The simple fact of compelling video gamers to go outside and exercise has astounded many people.

The game is based on Augmented Reality (AR), which is a technology in its infancy. The focus is on the graphical overlay, which takes imagery/text/animation and superimposes it upon your surroundings via a camera. Apps were created that allow you to view advertising and menus outside of restaurants, translate text in real time,  and even track down star constellations that may be hiding from your eye. While Pokemon Go also relies heavily on overlaying pokemon onto your surroundings, I believe that the highly overlooked feature in most AR apps is the GPS tracking your location.

If you play the game, you quickly realize that how well you do depends on your location in the world (and the cellular data usage around you – to the dismay of many a Pokemon trainer living outside a city). Even more so, the Pokemon exist outside in the world in distinct locations, forcing players to track them down physically using the Pokemon Go app as a navigation system.

pokemon_go_3

The map of your surroundings that Pokemon Go utilizes is actually the Google Maps engine.

So to recap – if you peel back the layer of Pokemon, this game simply has people searching for points on a map. The simplicity of it is truly a marvel, while the potential to expand upon it is almost limitless. While technology like this can certainly cause trouble, as I’ll explain a bit later, it also has the potential for tremendous good. Read the following hypothetical example:

A fire breaks out in a town, and the local fire department needs pictures of it as rapidly as possible so that it can plan a more directed response. So it asks the creators of Pokemon Go to spawn a certain rare Pokemon, let’s say Pikachu, at the fire. All the nearby Pokemon trainers are then alerted of the Pikachu’s presence and hurry to the scene of the fire to catch it. The images, or even video, that the AR system on each player’s phone is utilizing, is then live streamed to the fire department, who would then use the data to create a 3D model of the scene of the fire as it’s happening.

This example is surely outlandish, not only because a Pikachu would have no reason to hang out in a burning building (a Charizard maybe more likely), but also more importantly because it would obviously pose a large hazard to oblivious Pokemon GO players. It’s been stated on this blog that if the in-game reward is large enough, dedicated players might be willing to do almost anything to obtain it (braving a fire is probably only even a slight exaggeration). Combined with GPS technology, what you have is a powerful tool that incentivizes people to travel to certain locations. Now here’s another, safer, example of how this idea could be utilized:

A local group has organized a day for volunteers to gather and clean up the town park. This group however has also asked the creators of Pokemon GO to spawn more pokemon at the park than usual on this day. Surely this will attract any serious pokemon trainers in the neighborhood. And while they are already incentivized to remain in the area, the efforts of the local group can hopefully also sway them to pitch in and clean up the park a bit during their stay. Perhaps this local group can even work out a deal where they are authorized by the Pokemon Go creators to hand out in-game rewards, such as items or experience.

In the more distant future we’ll even get points for each individual piece of trash we pick up, but until that technology arrives I think cases like the above would prove fascinating interactions. Many people who have played the game have definitely had similar concepts cross their mind in relation to local businesses – more specifically the idea that a company can pay the creators of Pokemon GO to generate Pokemon at their establishments or events in order to attract more customers. While the capitalistic aspect will hopefully garner more interest and support for the technology, the potential social good applications are unique in that they have a chance to revolutionize community volunteering and engagement.

You don’t have to play Pokemon Go to observe the herds of children, teenagers, and even adults standing around in public spaces playing this game. Not only does this simple fact alone make these spaces safer for all, but imagine now if the game asked these people to interact further. What if collaboration, for a wide number of plausible reasons, on a tiny local scale, could be incentivized on a grand scale using AR game technology? One minute you are playing Pokemon Go, the next you have a met a stranger in your neighborhood and are planning ways to practice first aid, or even actively providing aid to an individual while an ambulance is on route. All in the name of advancing one’s self in an imaginary world. One could picture governments around the world  experimenting with AR as a means for civic duties in the future.

Unfortunately, another way in that governments will be interested in this technology, but most likely for good reason, is regulation. The ability to direct the movements of people in the real world is a serious responsibility. Already cases have sprung up of people trespassing, crashing their vehicles, and even being targeted for robbery while playing Pokemon GO. Even if the Pokemon are placed responsibly, certain users of the app will abuse that to commit theft or even worse, as popular spots are noted equally on everyone’s screen. What form this type of regulation will take shape is anyone’s guess, but there certainly will be plenty of trial and error. Even at the time of writing, the feature in Pokemon GO that allowed you to actively track Pokemon has been disabled (it wasn’t working correctly), and so players are now simply forced to randomly come across Pokemon. A new tracking system is being tested, but perhaps the change was made as a result of the developers fearing lawsuits? While one would think it is ultimately the player’s responsibility to avoid trouble, as these AR games become more and more engaging, this assumption will certainly become blurred.

pokemon-go-nick_statt-screenshots-1.0

The pokemon appear in the “real world”.

The last point that needs to be made about Pokemon GO is it’s use of popular culture to achieve success. The game which preceded Pokemon GO, Ingress, has gained much less popularity, despite being almost the same game but with much more features. Could it be that popular fantasy worlds have a growing influence on the public acceptance of a technology?

In the late 1990’s Pokemon was a cultural phenomenon among children and teenagers. Now most of these individuals are adults and their interest in the series has been newly rekindled by Pokemon GO. It has even attracted the attention of many individuals who never gave it a chance the first time (or are now forced to chaperone their children around as they capture pokemon). One can imagine that in another 20 years that the cultural saturation of Pokemon will be almost complete, meaning that the rewards for continuing to play the game will become more and more relevant in the world.

Imagine a future where people, who don’t have the the time to go hunting pokemon themselves, actively buy rare pokemon from others to complete a collection, for battle, or even simply as a status symbol. Others could ideally be able to make a living by volunteering locally, or better yet travelling the world volunteering, and engaging in the global pokemon trade (a dream for any person who has played a Pokemon game).

Lastly, Pokemon is but one example. How will popular fantasy worlds such as Star Wars, Warcraft, Marvel, or countless others affect technological and social progress in the future? The potential for good is tremendous if handled responsibly. Now imagine this final Pokemon Go application:

An earthquake has just struck and people are in need of help. People who are at the scene and are unharmed can assist by scouting around – taking pictures and video (and capturing pokemon). This can then be streamed to volunteers sitting at home, who identify damaged buildings and infrastructure (receiving items or experience). The resulting analyzed video/imagery is sent to local emergency relief forces, who then in turn ask local pokemon trainers, perhaps trained in first aid, to assist nearby first responders or even directly rescue people (gaining large amounts of experience or even rare pokemon). In the months following the earthquake, local trainers can volunteer in reconstruction, humanitarian aid, or disaster mitigation and preparedness efforts (gaining more experience, items, or pokemon).

Pokemon Go players would not only be actively helping out communities, but also would be acquiring valuable new skills, either through volunteering, or as a prerequisite to doing so. Rather than simply seen as people loitering in public places, players could be seen as upstanding citizens among their neighbors, who devote their time and energy not only to a fantasy world – but to the bettering of the real world as well. All it would take is a bit social ingenuity, perhaps some government or economic incentivization, and of course the continued success of a particular Japanese cartoon world.

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How will AR look in 20 years?

If you’re interested in any of the ideas on this blog, have interesting ideas of your own, are interested in collaborating, or simply want to say hi, please feel free to reach out to us at contact@internet-response-league.com

IRL in Team Fortress 2

Team Fortress 2

Team Fortress 2 (TF2) will be the game to kick off this series. While it may not be the most played title currently released by Valve Corporation, it certainly can be considered their most iconic, especially when considering its unique in-game economy. This is an excellent place to start and provide some general examples.

TF2 is a first-person shooter (FPS) action game from 2007 with cartoon graphics and an economy that was valued at over $50 million. [1] It is important to note here that this is not money that Valve has earned from the game, but rather the total value of time and money that players have invested into the game to increase the quality of their play. Hats are considered the most valuable asset in the game, offering nothing more than visual appeal (and hilarity). Some of the rarer hats, which are randomly found by players, can reach ludicrous price tags. One example is the “Burning Flames Team Captain” which was priced at over $5,000 in March of last year. [2] [3]

Burning Flames Team Captain

The implications that these facts have for IRL are incredible. It means that there is a large community of gamers playing TF2 that are willing to invest their time and/or money to obtain these virtual objects. The game itself is free to play nowadays, and since time is a factor that can be used to obtain every single item, there is no actual monetary value to Valve. The company does offer most of the common items for sale to players, which accounts for their profit, but the most valuable items, such as the Burning Flames Team Captain, are only obtained randomly by lucky players. These players can then trade these rare items to other players for items with real world value, and Valve sees none of this value. This means that Valve is willing to create and facilitate content for this economy which they do not directly benefit from.

So if players can trade these valuable items among themselves for real-world value (completely at Valve’s expense), then why not incorporate a system where these players can earn items through volunteer work (where Valve could see some actual value)? Simply enabling this type of interaction would qualify as a (very efficient) form of social responsibility. While Valve may not gain anything anything monetarily, the long term benefits in terms of publicity should be more than worth the effort.

This example can become even more detailed (and hypothetical). For example, there could be a few different hats designated for different levels of IRL commitment. There would be the standard hat, which most people would own with a minimal amount of time spent volunteering. However for those that choose to go above and beyond, spending a significant amount of time participating would reward you a special edition hat. For each deployment, this special edition hat would change, meaning that these hats would become very rare and valuable (assuming they would be trade-able). This could potentially drive IRL participation sky high, as the rewards become increasingly sought after collectibles. If this happened, Valve would see a massive surge of press and good will on their behalf.

These are all unfortunately just ideas for now. Turning a free-to-play game into a humanitarian volunteer machine would be an unprecedented feat, and a worthy challenge for any company. There are obviously many different ways that this could happen, and it is my hopes that this type of discussion will spur Valve Corporation and other video game companies to try out this innovative method of social responsibility.

As always, please contact us if you have questions/comments, would like to work with us, or would simply like to say hi! The next post will focus on another video game. See you then!

IRL TF2

 

 

References:

1. Good, Owen (17 December 2011). “Analyst Pegs Team Fortress 2 Hat Economy at 50 Million”. Kotaku. Retrieved 8/20/2014.

2. “Burning Flames Team Captain Item Information”. backpack.tf. Retrieved 8/20/2014.

3. “TF2 Earbuds Price”. TF2 Finance. Retrieved 8/20/2014.

IRL Ideas/Recap

Hello everyone, the test phase is still in the works! The partners with whom we will be working with are still in the process of readying the images for use. In the meantime, we figured we would bring you some content in the form of ideas.

The Internet Response League has the potential of assuming many unique forms depending on the specific video game companies that choose to participate. What may work for a MMORPG may not work for an FPS. With that in mind, over the next few weeks we will bringing you posts that detail the possible ways in which individual game franchises could incorporate IRL.

For this week, a quick recap of the basics of the Internet Response League:

  • Humanitarian organizations need large amounts of volunteers to help tag media immediately during/after a disaster.
  • Video game companies have large and persistent player-bases that could be enticed to help out with in-game rewards.
  • The motivation for the video game companies to participate and reward their players includes publicity, social responsibility, and potential bragging rights.

These are the basic pillars that the Internet Response League rests upon. There are many ways that these ideas could manifest themselves in real-life, and we invite you to help think of any that we may miss!

IRL in Search of Artists

“A call goes out around the world. A call to those doing epic quests, to those farming gold, to those ranking up, to those refreshing a website, and to those endlessly shooting each other. A symbol appears in the sky. It is a red cross, but with white lines on each arm, like a d-pad. This message is a rallying call to suspend the fun, for in real life disaster has occurred, and it is up to the denizens of the internet to step forth and help relieve the suffering. Don your armor and let the epic theme into your ears. We need your help to find the weak and give them direction, to locate hazards and mark them brightly, and to steer brave rescuers towards the innocent victims. We need you to join the Internet Response League.”

We believe that one of the cornerstones of creating a successful Internet Response League is to create compelling fantasy dialogue with our members. Video games live in the realm of gripping storylines, fantastic graphics, and epic rewards. While taking an abstract concept and creating fiction is definitely a challenge, we believe that there is definitely a way that the Internet Response League can implement these ideals.

This post is a call to all the talented individuals out there willing to help the cause. We are in need of stories, concept art, and music. The Internet Response League is a call to all able individuals to take arms and help a cause, a crusade if you let it be. Like organizations of the long past, the Internet Response League can come to represent an era. In order to so successfully, its story needs to be rich and fulfilling. A common symbol can help create this result.

IRLicon

The IRL cross, the red cross with the white stripes on each arm, should be the cornerstone of the movement. Armor, mounts, banners, and logos implementing the IRL cross can stir the hearts players in every game across the internet. Then to match, a story of epic heroes forging a union defending the weak and a theme song to match national anthems. Together the end result can become a force that could change the world. All that is needed now is grandiose imagination.

We hope the Internet Response League to become the intrigue of our day. We will be reaching out to art communities all over in hopes to garner support. If you know of anyone who fits in this category, please let them know. We want artists to draw their characters emblazoned with the IRL cross, musicians to translate the cause into song, and story-writers to chronicle the awaiting tales. We want this effort will be shared by the world, as is the entirety of the IRL. Every individual contribution will create a new vision of the idea, and will be rewarded greatly. As in history, with grand ideas comes great wealth. What kind, only time will tell.

IRL Plugin Demo

As the work on the Internet Response League Plugin continues, we’ve decided to record a video demo, showcasing some of the ideas that we’ve had in development. The video is below for you viewing pleasure.

Please note that this is still a work in progress.If you are interested in helping out, feel free to contact us at our email (contact@internet-response-league.com) or join us at our Google Group (https://groups.google.com/forum/#!forum/internet-response-league).

IRL Moving Forward

As the Internet Response League (IRL) begins to gain traction amongst the gaming community, we hope that our next steps will draw in as many game developers as possible. Our goal for this project is to create an open community of gamers and game developers aligned with the common cause of helping out in disaster response and creating a socially responsible gaming world.

First things first: the response amongst the gaming community thus far has been excellent and we hope to continue the growth of interested gamers. Our ultimate goal is to reach the imaginations of game developers, and while contacting them directly is one route, we believe that rallying gamers to the cause first will create better results later on. So please do share this initiative with your gamer friends far and wide!

Additionally we have created an official IRL Google Group, to create a public conversation for the project. All are welcome to come and join. We plan on having regular discussions on how we can move this project forward and in what ways it would be the most beneficial to those involved. Below is a link to the Google Group:

https://groups.google.com/forum/#!forum/internet-response-league

The first topic that we’ll be discussing is what an average disaster scenario would look like in game. We want game developers to have the freedom of being able to implement IRL into their game platforms however they please, but there are basics that will be required. In essence, these will be: A) Notifying players when there is a disaster occurring and asking them if they would like to help out, B) Creating an ‘area’ for gamers to be able to tag disaster photos, and possibly C) Asking players to sign-up/login to receive rewards.

To begin with, we’ll focus on tagging Instagram photos. Once we’ve worked out this process, it will be easy to expand the tagging to other social & multimedia content.

So now to take a look at how IRL could look in game, lets use World of Warcraft as an example again to walk you through these basic requirements (please excuse the shoddy MS paint skills). First, the moment that a disaster strikes, everyone currently playing the game and those logging on from that point on will receive notification of the event. Only users who have opted in to receive these “alerts” will see them. The message will give a brief description of what has happened, and will ask players to help out with the tagging.

A message like this would greet you upon logging in. (Screenshot is from World of Warcraft and has been altered)

A message like this would greet you upon logging in. (Screenshot is from World of Warcraft and has been altered)

In game notification should have settings so as to not annoy players. (Screenshot is from World of Warcraft and has been altered)

In game notifications would have settings, with the ability to be disabled, so as to not annoy players. (Screenshot is from World of Warcraft and has been altered)

Accepting this invitation will take players to “disaster tagging area” (screen). People will be able to tag as many pictures as they like and exit back to the game as they please. For example, in the screenshot below, gamers are asked to tag the level of damage they see in an Instagram picture. The tagging data will be sent to IRL and be used to create a live crisis map of disaster damage for disaster responders.

A rough concept of what the tagging screen may look like. (Screenshot is from World of Warcraft and has been altered)

A rough concept of what the tagging screen may look like. (Screenshot is from World of Warcraft and has been altered)

From a technical standpoint, we’d like to develop a standard IRL web plugin that gaming companies can easily insert into their games. This would allow us to push pictures to the plugin (like the above picture) and in return get the tagging data pushed back to us for rapid damage assessment analysis. Using this plugin, we could also keep track of each gamer’s tagging totals and credit the players accordingly. In short, we want plenty of room for stylization to allow for unique fits with individual games’ story, etc. We believe that the simplicity of such a system should be a huge selling point to developers, considering all of the positives that are associated with it.

The second topic that we will be discussing is the possibility of having a set of armor unique to the top contributors of IRL. The goal is to have a unique point system for people helping out in disaster response, which for now we will name the “IRL Score”. This score will simply count the amount of Instagram pictures that a player has tagged and will exist outside of individual games. This means that if a person does plenty of IRL work in one game, the standing with IRL will carry over to every other participating game. This score would then translate to rewards that players can redeem in-game.

Players who attain a high enough “IRL Score” would be able to gain access to unique suits of armor specific to the Internet Response League, including the logo and color scheme. For this to work, our supposed graphics designers would have to work very closely with game developers to ensure that this could be implemented with each game’s unique visual style and gameplay. Considering that not every game has armor in it, creativity will go a long way, using skins, banners, and maybe even custom units as rewards. Additionally there would be a few different tiers of these rewards depending on how devoted to the IRL you are, giving the most humanitarian gamers out there the ability to wear really cool armor, despite the game that they are playing. Remember how powerful Bono’s Red Campaign was. Could we design a distinct Red and White Armor with the same kind of brand power?

redcampaign

There are definitely some nuances that would need to be addressed. Firstly, this armor should only be cosmetic, so that it does not affect the balance of the respective games. Second, we will want only the top IRL supporters to be able to wear the highest tiers of the armor, meaning that the vast majority of IRL users will have to settle for an IRL emblem, player title, or something of a lesser nature than the armor. The idea here is to cement the Internet Response League and its most dedicated members amongst more serious gaming communities. As stated earlier, the “IRL score” will simply count the amount of pictures that a player has tagged, and only those who have a score within a certain top percentage will be able to wear the armor. Yes, this also means that if you quit participating while at the top, you will lose the opportunity to wear the armor. Those who don the armor would hopefully become a sort of prestigious group of gamers who not only want to help in the real world, but also want to take it to the next level.

Gamers tend to be competitive, so we expect that this proposed setup will not deter anyone; the end result will still remain helping out disaster victims. Plus individual games / game platforms will ideally offer their own rewards for the work to keep players interested. Finally, your “IRL Score” could also be used to show prospective schools/employers how many volunteer hours you have accumulated in total, so that value created will be immense!

If you are a game developer / graphics designer, or are simply interested in this idea, please stay tuned to our Google Group for this idea. Amongst these two topics mentioned here, there will be many more to come as we collectively attempt to push the Internet Response League into the hearts of gamers around the world. Additionally, we will be exploring the possibility of using kickstarter in the future to fund a game developers & graphics designer(s) to create the IRL image tagging plugin and armor for us, so definitely stay tuned!

https://groups.google.com/forum/#!forum/internet-response-league

See you there!

Welcome to the Internet Response League (IRL)

It’s a fact of life: disasters happen almost every day. Somewhere in the world a house is on fire, a city is being devastated by a storm, or maybe even an explosion has gone off. Today, these disasters tend to generate extensive social media coverage. Take for example Hurricane Sandy, where more than half-a-million Instagram pictures and 20 million tweets were posted during the disaster.[1] The Japanese Earthquake and Tsunami the year before saw 100,000 tweets posted per minute.[2] Disaster-affected communities are now more likely than ever to be on social media, which dramatically multiplies the amount of user-generated crisis information posted during disasters.[3] Welcome to the age of Big Data—Big Crisis Data.

Humanitarian organizations and emergency management responders are not prepared to deal with the volume and velocity of crisis information. This presents a real problem because social media can save lives. Indeed, recent empirical studies have shown that an important percentage of social media messages include valuable, informative and actionable content for disaster response.[4] These often include information about people’s needs (food, water, shelter, first-aid, etc.) and even the location of trapped or injured people. The problem that humanitarians and disaster responders face, however, is to quickly find this life-saving information amidst the vast ocean of social media chatter.

Now consider this: More than half a billion people worldwide play computer and video games for at least an hour a day.[5] This amounts to more than 3.5 billion hours per week. In the US alone, over two-thirds of Americans play video games, spending more than four million hours per week online.[6] In fact, more than five million gamers in the US spend over 40 hours per week playing video games.[7] The average young person will spend 10,000 hours playing video games by the age of 21.[8] In 2012 the average US citizen spent 142 hours playing video games, up from 131 in 2011.[9] In early 2013, World of Warcraft (WoW) reached 9.6 million subscribers worldwide, a population larger than Sweden.[10] Today, WoW reports close to one million people logging onto their servers simultaneously.[11] The online game League of Legends has more than 12 million unique users every day while more than 20 million users log on to Xbox Live every day.[12] Facebook games have more than 56 million daily players.[13]

What if these gamers had been invited to search through the information haystack of 20 million tweets posted during Hurricane Sandy? Lets say gamers were asked to tag which tweets were urgent. This simple task would directly support disaster responders and would take no longer than 10 seconds per tweet. Assuming that all of their volunteers were working 24/7 with no breaks, the Digital Humanitarian Network (DHN) would have taken more than 100 hours or close to 5 days, to process these tweets. In contrast, the 4 million gamers playing WoW (excluding China) would only need 90 seconds to do this. The 12 million gamers on League of Legends would have taken just 30 seconds. Facebook gamers would take less than 7 seconds.

IRL infographic

Some of the numbers proposed above may seem unrealistic, but there is absolutely no denying that drawing on this vast untapped resource would significantly accelerate the processing of crisis information during major disasters. Video-gamers worldwide can thus play a huge role in supporting disaster response operations without ever leaving their homes. Now you may be wondering: what form would this humanitarian support actually take?

The work would be broken down into micro tasks. These micro tasks usually involve the user looking at a tweet or photo shared on a social networking platform and tagging this information accordingly. For example, gamers could tag all tweets that are relevant for disaster response. They could also tag images if they depict disaster damage. In addition, savvy gamers could geo-tag tweets and photos, just like volunteers with the Digital Humanitarian Network have done in the past. This may seem like little from an individual perspective, but with tens of thousands of gamers doing this in real-time, it would be possible to create a live Crisis Map of the disaster area in just seconds. Crisis Maps are used by humanitarian and rescue organizations to inform disaster response operations and even to save lives. Take for example the Haiti-Earthquake, the first example of this concept at work.[14] One of the most recent examples of micro tasking for disaster relief is the United Nation’s response to Typhoon Pablo in the Philippines. [15]

This tweet from Hurricane Sandy contains valuable information for first responders.

This tweet from Hurricane Sandy contains valuable information for first responders.

But what’s in it for the game companies and their users? What incentives would these companies have to spend some time and money on integrating disaster tweets into their gaming environments? Well, we believe that gamers-for-good would bring about a social revolution. First, let’s consider the typical stereotypes of gamers. Society considers gamers to be lazy, out of touch and perhaps even irresponsible. Gamers spend billions of hours playing video games instead of contributing to society and making the world a better place. To be sure, many gamers out there say that the biggest negative of gaming is the difficulty in convincing others that playing online games is actually not as bad as everyone makes it out to be. In the end however, game companies would appreciate a better reputation outside of the gaming industry because this would mean more users and increased sales.

So now imagine if playing World of Warcraft (WoW) translated into contributions of millions of hours towards humanitarian response. Add the ability to show off your personal “Online Volunteer Score,” and the reputation of gamers and game companies could change overnight. Think of the marketing potential for the video game companies if they can say that playing their amazing games also gives people the opportunity to help out in the real world of disaster response. Not only would this news attract new customers, it would be a source of new content for current players. For example, the free WoW starter edition can include this volunteer feature; the work itself can earn players cosmetic rewards and there could be leader boards to encourage healthy competition. The players will be happy, the game companies will be happy, and above all, those who received timely aid will be happy (and safe).

Given a map of the area, would you be able to geo-locate this tweet from the Oklahoma tornado based solely on the vine?

Given a map of the area, would you be able to geo-locate this tweet from the Oklahoma tornado based solely on the vine?

All it takes is a game developer to make the first move. This is something that would not only significantly differentiate them in a highly competitive environment, but also expand their user base. Disaster volunteer work might also attract many non-traditional gamers such as the growing number of digital humanitarian volunteers, older generations, and other people typically uninterested in online games. Additionally, consider how many younger gamers would prefer your game because it gives them the chance of being the hero in real-life. Combine the amount of media coverage that disasters generate with the already large presence that video games have in popular media, place emphasis on user-friendliness and meaningful contributions, and you have yourself a revolution in global citizen engagement and humanitarian action.

Our use of WoW as an example is not random but deliberate. While the above scenario should appeal to the entire video game industry, our focus on Massively Multiplayer Online Games (MMORPG’s) would not only benefit that specific industry via new content but also would serve as the perfect platform to support this type of work. While any type of game can introduce a short mini-game for this humanitarian work, we believe that an MMORPG would have the ability to make it seem the most natural.

Let’s say a disaster strikes Los Angeles. WoW could use open source map data to generate an in-game version of the city and surroundings. This would help gamers gain a basic understanding of the geography of the affected area. Individual players would then receive quests in which they complete the tasks mentioned above and maybe slay some monsters on the side. Then, to create an interactive feel for the player, the map mentioned earlier could be updated in real-time to incorporate the data which is being sorted (possibly even including the activities of local response). After all the hard work is done, WoW could reward participants with a battle pet, a piece of transmog gear, or maybe even a commemorative mount (in-game rewards that would not make a player any more powerful). Using a bit of creativity the possibilities are really endless: who knows what unique methods game developers can come up with to incorporate this work.

wowpic

How crisis maps could be incorporated into a game. (Screenshot from World of Warcraft)

WoW also sports the most humanitarian-oriented player base. The players combined to donate $1.9 million for Japan Earthquake relief and $2.3 million to victims of Superstorm Sandy.[1617] No other gaming community has expressed such interest in this type humanitarian aid. With the Internet Response League, gamers can also donate their game time. Finally, the fact that Blizzard Entertainment, the creators of WoW, has been an extremely progressive game-developer, with such innovations such as the real money auction house in Diablo 3, makes our proposal perfectly plausible. Again though, this is in no way meant to alienate other games. Remember that with a bit of creativity these types of tasks can be implemented into any game. Facebook in particular is a massive platform that could create some very unique player experiences and results. Finally, something like cross-game or cross-game-community competition could harbor some interesting results. Which community do you think would be able to provide more volunteer help, WoW, Steam or Xbox live?

We at Internet Response League want the future to be a world full of socially-conscious gamers. We envision this world to be one in which gamers can be called upon to help solve the world’s problems. Realizing this vision is far easier than many realize; it only take some imagination and foresight. The possibilities and potential for the future of disaster response are endless. One day, players will actually be able to guide response efforts on the ground based on the information processed via online games. As good as getting to the next level in WoW or other games may already make you feel, imagine if getting to the next level translated into real-time actions that could save lives and mitigate suffering during disasters. We believe that that the Internet Response League is the perfect first step.

Want to help out? Do you have suggestions on how to turn this vision into reality? Want to join the Internet Response League or stay informed of our progress? Have contacts in the gaming industry? Are you a coder or gamer with extra time? Do you simply want to show your support for IRL? Then please contact us at “contact@internet-response-league.com” and/or leave note in the comments section below. Thank you!

This highly recommended TED talk is a powerful call for video games to integrate real life challenges.


 

References:

1. 2. Meier, Patrick (1 April 2013). “Automatically Extracting Disaster-Relevant Information from Social Media”. iRevolution. Retrieved 5/28/2013.

3. Meier, Patrick (9 April 2013). “Humanitarianism in the Network Age: Groundbreaking Study”. iRevolution. Retrieved 5/28/2013.

4. Meier, Patrick (17 December 2012). “Debating the Value of Tweets For Disaster Response (Intelligently)”. iRevolution. Retrieved 5/28/2013.

5. 7. 8. McGonical, Jane. “We spend 3 billion hours a week as a planet playing videogames. Is it worth it? How could it be MORE worth it?”. TED Conversations. Retrieved 5/28/2013.

6. Agnello, Anthony John (15 December 2012). “US id the World’s Biggest Video Game Market with 165 Million Players”. Digital Trends. Retrieved 5/28/2013.

9. Stevenson, Veronis Suhler. “Estimated Time spent* playing video games in the U.S. from 2002 to 2012** (in hours per person per year)”. Statista. Retrieved 5/10/2013.

10. 11. “Player Activity Graph Past 6 Months”. WarcraftRealms.com. Retrieved 3/15/2013.

12. Tryndamere (11 October 2012). “League of Legends Community Infographic”. Riot Games. Retrieved 5/28/2013.

13. O’Neill, Nick (22 September 2010). “10 Mind Blowing Facebook Games Statistics”. AllFacebook. Retrieved 5/28/2013.

14. Meier, Patrick (2 July 2012). “How Crisis Mapping Saved Lives in Haiti”. National Geographic. Retrieved 5/28/2013.

15. Meier, Patrick (8 December 2012). “How the UN Used Social Media in Response to Typhoon Pablo (Updated)”. iRevolution. Retrieved 5/28/2013.

16. (10 January 2013). “Cinder Kitten Raises More Than $2.3 Million”. Blizzard Entertainment. Retrieved 5/28/2013.

17. (3 August 2011). “Cenarion Hatchling Raises More Than $1.9 Million for Japan Earthquake Relief”. Blizzard Entertainment. Retrieved 5/28/2013.

A special thanks to our graphic design friend Mike Manzi for the amazing logo.