Tag Archives: Video Game Community

The Internet Response League: Pokemon Division?

 

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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.

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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.

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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

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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 Test Phase Incoming

Hello everyone! We haven’t had an update since late November, but this post is here to let you know that we’re still slowly but steadily working on IRL.

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There is also some news: we may be quickly approaching our first open testing phase!

What we’re looking at is tagging aerial images taken post-disaster. More specifically we plan to partner with a group from the Philippines who has been capturing UAV images of the disaster recovery and reconstruction efforts after typhoon Haiyan. This will allow us test our plugin in a controlled environment and hopefully garner some video game developer buy-in. We hope to bring you more in the following weeks.

As always, this project is open to anyone to help and contribute. If you are interested in joining, please feel free to contact us!

CCP Games Typhoon Relief

CCP Games, the developers of EVE online, has re-launched its “PLEX for Good” campaign in response to Typhoon Haiyan/Yolanda. PLEX, which is short for Pilot License Extension, is a usable and tradable in-game item that holds both real-world and in-game monetary value. This campaign is asking players to donate their PLEX, and for each one CCP Games will in turn donate $15 to the Icelandic Red Cross for Typhoon relief in the Philippines.

As of yesterday, players have already donated over $43,000, but CCP Games plans to boost that number with a charity live stream that will occur on December 7th. For different fundraising goals employees are pledging different things, such as receiving tattoos or getting their heads shaved. Previous PLEX for Good campaigns have been very successful, and the company has donated over $150,000 to disaster aid since their first collection in 2004 for the Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami. You can learn more about PLEX for Good and the charity live stream at this link.

This campaign helps prove that video gamers are a charitable community and that creativity can inspire people to help. Instead of just asking for cash donations, CCP Games decided to have players donate a virtual item to a virtual character within their game. While the end result may be the same, the feeling of doing it is certainly different. And why stop there? We can take the feeling of donating to a whole new level by actually allowing players to make a direct impact on the relief efforts. Giving the opportunity to contribute time instead of money is the logical choice for a video gaming community.

We applaud you CCP Games for your tremendous effort in relief aid. The money that you raise will be a great help to the Philippines during their time of need. We also implore you to go the next step. It’ll be a bold move, and a rewarding one as well.

Typhoon Haiyan/Yolanda Update

After a rigorous five days of crisis mapping, volunteers from all around the world made a total of 105,000 individual tags on the MicroMappers applications. These volunteers, from locales such as Belgium, Boston, Kenya, Australia, South Africa, Brooklyn, Canada, France, Spain, Qatar, Germany, the Philippines, Holland, and Denmark among others, sacrificed a small bit of their time because they wanted to do more than just listen to the news. They came together to help; resulting in around 600 relevant tweets and 180 usable images, that were deemed fit to populate the live Crisis Maps. Still as I write, these maps are being used to help with everything from rescue work to damage assessment in the Philippines, and can be seen at this link.

With all of this amazing news, we must realize that this was one of the first instances of volunteer crisis mapping ever conducted. Already, we can see that there is overwhelming proof that people are willing to spend some time to help out a disaster stricken area, “World Wide (Good) Will” as Patrick Meier puts it. These types of responses can only get better: they can be quicker, more accurate, and even more specialized. One day, volunteers will be able to complete complex tasks at the scene of a disaster right from the comfort of their home. For all of this, we recruit the expertise of the video-game community. Together, we know that we would be able to dominate any disaster event, and create a more prepared and victorious world community.

The Internet Response League is still looking for Game Developers to partner with to test our ideas. Please help spread to word to friends, family, and members or your favorite gaming community. Additionally we are looking to build a robust humanitarian-gamer culture. Please read this post to learn more.

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.