This evening after I settled down into bed to read some philosophy and pass out, Brendan asked me about the climate of fear that he is so sick of. I have a bunch of ideas on this topic — but the problem is I can’t think of anything to do about the whole situation. I couldn’t think of anything, that is, until this evening.

While in Europe I read Dr. Jane McGonigal’s paper “Why I Love Bees.” (PDF link) If you haven’t heard of ILB, it was an alternate reality game (ARG) run to promote Halo 2. The ballpark statistics that Dr. McGonigal cites in her paper are dizzying: some 600,000 players participated in solving the initial GPS puzzle by itself (McGonigal 9). So of course, it got me to thinking.

I also was a part of the ARG World Without Oil, in which a bunch of players collectively imagined a peak oil situation. It was neat because people came up with some pretty great ideas, imagined and wrote very realistically, and I really think we fostered a great community. Not only that, but this was the first use of ARG that I’ve ever seen where the game was used to address or deal with socio-political, “real world” issues, not just something fantastic like the ILB storyline.

The thing that Brendan is worried about is this: what kind of impact will this game have on the actual world? If you look at Dr. McGonigal’s story about ILB, you’ll see just the reach you can get with a good player base. Moreover, I will go so far as to postulate that a lot of the people you might reach through an ARG are the kinds of people who are sick of the atmosphere of fear and being in a war that isn’t designed to be won but to be perpetually fought. I’m not saying they’re liberals or conservatives, Democrats or Republicans. I’m just saying they’re sick and tired of being jerked around by a bunch of jerks in Washington, D.C. who are really into personal profit and not so much into running a country responsibly and intelligently.

I really wish that I had the time to really flesh this idea out more. I wish I had time and money and manpower to run this crazy dream.

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