Yesterday, I had the pleasure of making the acquaintance of many clever and interesting people, most of whom seemed to want to act in the kind of good faith modern politicking seems to sorely lack. There did seem to be, it has to be said, far more individuals from the the gaming-oriented community than the political at #PICamp’s session on “What Policy-Makers Can Learn from Gaming”. Perhaps the former – the manifest good faith – was a result of the latter. These were, in the main, evidence-based professionals in a society where evidence-based professionals are vigorously ignored by their government (recent and notable examples being the submissions from doctors in relation to the NHS Bill, now Act; and submissions from lawyers on the subject of the Legal Aid Bill still going through Parliament).
No wonder, then, the expressions of unhappiness, communicated by many of those present, into the way that government appears to be run in the progressive absence of clear reference to even available datasets – and, what’s more, where stats are used, with a tendency to pigeonhole on the basis of prejudice, politics, ideology or an explosive combination of all three.
I started out the evening by writing down a series of words and concepts which came to mind in a crossover way in relation to the concepts of both politics and gaming:
- process and procedure
- command and control
I also wrote down the following words:
Gaming, however, is far more successful at gaining empowered adepts – maybe because it empowers. Politics only empowers the already empowered. Politics shrinks its base. Gaming expands *and* renews it.
In her keynote presentation, Jude, from PlayMob, showed us just that:
Seven billion hours per week are spent playing games. The average age of the social gamer is 43 and more women play social games than men. 1/3 of the global population play games.
And that figure of seven billion hours per week is apparently up from three billion the year before.
It’s clear that whilst empowerment is a buzzword in modern political practice, most politicians would seem not to be in favour of giving up the landgrab of power their traditional way of engaging with voters tends to imply. Meanwhile, in the software constitutions of modern online and console-gaming, you live or die – in a question of maybe a weekend’s launch window – by the virally communicated opinion of the “voters” you are attempting to hook up with.
There is nothing more democratic or transparent than the opinion a gaming community may have of a game. It doesn’t matter how much money you spend on marketing: the crowdsourced million eyes of communal intelligences will just as easily damn your new baby with trolling of the very worst sort as the mainstream reviewers will similarly do with a more traditionally self-interested faint praise.
The result is the same: your gaming “manifesto” in the rubbish bin – and an expensive reboot and starting from scratch. Just like losing an election by a landslide in fact.
So what can policy-makers learn from gaming? Jude made much of crossover opportunities between shoot-em-up environments and the more educative approaches that NGOs and other organisations could promote. In the roundtable Q&A session held after her presentation, one of the ideas which arose was how to couch gaming – clearly, at its best, a successful exponent of constitutional development and empowerment – in the kind of language which might appeal to policy-makers and politicians. You clearly have a barrier if you use a linguistic code which smacks of jargon and specialisms, and this will generate resistance to new ideas from your target audience. Also, many policy-makers, or at least many politicians, prefer to make and tend towards grand statements when launching ideas on the general public: far better to declaim that the government is going to invest in a million brand new iPads for schools across the land than use a pedagogically valid strategy of getting students in multilevel learning paths to use in common classroom environments their own Blackberries, iPhones, textbooks and tools of choice in general. Hardly the evidence-based approach you’re looking for.
I’d be inclined to believe – and this came up in the debate – that society has already become gamified to a certain extent; and not just within the context of gaming as we understand it. Levels, objectives, ovearching targets, learning environments, multilevel learning paths and reward systems of all kinds have been used since time immemorial – and certainly as long ago as New Labour’s centralising instincts. I noted, in fact, how I saw my own children working quite happily with such quantitative systems of measuring progress where I, if now at school or university, would have found them most disagreeable.
I’m am not of the gaming generation. They are. But I do wonder, as early photography influenced how painting developed and new ways of painting influenced how photography progressed, if it’s been gaming which has brought about the revolution or if gaming has simply benefited from a revolution which has been brought about by other strands of understanding in our civilisation.
Whether gaming is the cause or has taken massive advantage of all these changes, the truth of the matter is that it would seem modern communication, at least between individual citizens, takes place in widely gamified environments.
Just as 140-character tweets become the envelope within which we may conduct meetings, so gaming defines our ecosystems of productivity and how we should interact with others.
In gaming at least.
And perhaps, at the level of “what”, in politics too. But still we must make that final step towards the “how” of empowerment. And that step it would seem professional policy-makers, as well as politicians more widely, are highly reluctant to take.
Perhaps what we really need is a massive online experience which aims to grab from the professional politicians their current rights and responsibilities and create an alternative system of governance.
A massive online experience which allows us to occupy all the organs of state, understand and even input into the whys and wherefores of modern politicking.
A training-ground, in fact, which prepares us – Lara Croft-like – for the challenges ahead.
In a sense, as Twitter seeps into the traditional political consciousness, and as MPs, councillors, businesspeople and other players in our latterday societal patchwork dare to sign up to its attractions, perhaps this online experience is already beginning to create itself. All it needs is someone like Jude and PlayMob to put an eye-watering interface on the front and a delivery system behind. To virtualise the real world, make real the virtual – and then allow the connections to begin generating themselves.
Watch indeed, amazed as perhaps we might all end up finding ourselves, as the primary motivation – get rid of your careerist MPs and replace them with real people’s thoughts and ideas! – begins to drive adhesion to the proposal on the table.
It’s a thought, anyhow.
Especially as the market of potentially interested and sufficiently pissed-off voters is growing.