People Around the World Are Challenged to “Face the Future”
Can you answer the following question?: “If we could feel what others feel, what would the world look like?”
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It is a typical assumption that games are not able to further a person’s intelligence because they are usually “simple” and “childish.” However, there are several notable minds who believe otherwise. American game designer Jane McGonigal believes that games can be used to provoke thought, encourage social interaction, and promote teamwork. Using these ideas, McGonigal collaborated with Facing History and Institute for the Future, two non-profit organizations that empower people to think critically about historical actions by applying them to the present, to redefine what a game is capable of. They created “Face the Future,” a game in which players collaborate to answer the question: “If we could feel what others feel, what would the world look like?”
From November 13th at 6:00pm EST through November 14th at midnight, students, educators, and other community members were challenged to play. Players were required to try to imagine a world ten years from now where people could experience the feelings of others using a technological network called, “FeelThat.” Interestingly enough, FeelThat is not much more complex than the neurosensing technology around today.
The purpose was to imagine both the positive and negative effects of the FeelThat network as a way for people to feel the emotions of others. Players used their imaginations to think of the great social advancements that FeelThat would introduce, as well as the darker aspects of the network. They would also watch a set of four thought-provoking videos specifically made to draw attention to how FeelThat would affect daily life. In particular, they emphasized how social media, the grieving process, humanitarian aid, and the justice system would be affected.
Players would then “face the future” by discussing how this new form of empathy would change society. This was done by submitting their “futures” as “cards.” Then, other players had the opportunity to “build” on their ideas by adding comments and follow-up ideas. Other ways to show support for an idea included “starring” interesting cards, or playing a card to offer ways the positive (or negative) effects could be brought into reality (or avoided.)
Points would be awarded to the original player as others built on their card. Larger teams that build on a card together were rewarded with a large boost in points as a result of their teamwork.
After finishing the game, players had a choice of creating an account on the site, or tweeting their foresights and follow up cards on Twitter using hashtags #ShadowImagination and #FeelThatPositive. The administrators of Face the Future also gave out awards for particularly thoughtful cards by highlighting them for all other players to see. They also offered a notable amount of support and drove discussion for players who demonstrated exemplary performance.
Throughout the experiment, 9,005 players joined together to create an astonishing 87,772 different futures. By the end of the time frame, the top five players had gained at least a 100,000 point lead on the rest of the players, showing just how enthusiastic some people were. In the final hours before the game’s conclusion, the website had even begun to malfunction, experiencing major slowdowns due to the high user activity.
Mrs. Sok, a World History teacher who contributes to the Diversity Club at Watchung Hills Regional High School, has been a longtime partner with Facing History, saying that “[she has] worked with them for many years.” It was through her that activities similar to the Face the Future game have been introduced to the student body.
Overall, the experiment led to a great variety of “futures” created. The more notable ones could have been found on their blog, but the site likely crashed so often that Facing History could not salvage their screenshots. The final scores and foresights can be found here.