World's First "Multiplayer Forecasting Game" Asks: What Would You Do If Humanity Has Only 23 Years Left?

Image: London in 2019? from Futurelab

In an increasingly unpredictable world besieged by melting ice-caps, earthquakes and floods, it's not difficult to see the advantages of so-called scenario-thinking to help humanity quickly adapt to the vagaries of climate change. Take it one notch further, make it virtual, collective and collaborative, and you've got Superstruct, the world's first "massive multiplayer forecasting game."

Developed by the Palo Alto-based non-profit think tank Institute for the Future, it will launch on September 22 for six weeks. Superstruct is another addition to a line of recent "alternate-reality games" (ARGs), such as "World Without Oil" (WWO), which allow participants to use their "collective intelligence" to create solutions that can apply to real-world problems.

Like WWO's motto to "play it before you live it," Superstruct has a survivalist strategy behind it: ie. imagine the world as it is in 2019 and how we might tackle the problems we will face then. The game is also a race against time, based on a fictional year-long supercomputer simulation called Global Extinction Awareness System (GEAS), which predicts that homo sapiens has a "survival horizon" of a mere 23 years.In addition to identifying humanity's survival horizon, the GEAS models also determined five environmental, economic, and socially-derived "super-threats" which will challenge the human species' ability to survive.

Anyone can "superstruct"
Given these dismal (even if imagined) numbers, it makes sense that the creators of Superstruct would want to transform a rather ominous forecast into positive action. The game can be played by anyone on "forums, blogs, videos, wikis, and other familiar online spaces," but what does "superstructing" mean exactly? According to their website:

Superstructing is what humans do. We build new structures on old structures. We build media on top of language and communication networks. We build communities on top of family structures. [..] Superstructing has allowed us to survive in the past and it will help us survive the super-threats. [..] The existing structures of human civilization--from families and language to corporate society and technological infrastructures--just aren't enough. We need a new set of superstructures to rise above, to take humans to the next stage.

If you are familiar with massive multiplayer online role-playing games (MMORPGs) such as World of Warcraft and Everquest, then it is easy to see the powerful, large-scale potential of this kind of game for connecting, educating and re-inventing the future of the human species through the virtual world. It's a puzzle, it's a game, it's our future lives - it can be whatever we can collectively imagine it to be. See the preliminaries here.

::Institute for the Future
via Futurelab

Related Links on Alternate Reality Games

"World Without Oil"
Ten-Year Forecast (IFTF)
Serious Games: ARGs Challenging Us To Play A Better Future (blog)
Alternate Gaming Reality Network

Related Links on Scenario Thinking

Living In The Up-Down, Hot-Cold, Dry-Wet Future
Millennium EcoSystem Assessment
Water Crisis Scenarios For The US Southeast

Tags: Evolution | Games | Social Networking | United States

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