Let's say, hypothetically, that this is the year 2019 and that today's big news story is that the Global Extinction Awareness System, a supercomputer devoted to forecasting precisely when any given species is likely to give up the ghost, has predicted that Homo Sapiens will go extinct by 2042. Let's also say, hypothetically, that you and a whole bunch of 2019-ers actually give a crap, and are ready and willing to band together to make sure that humans have the opportunity to stick around a bit longer than that.
That's the premise of a new online role playing game called Superstruct, slated to launch on September 22, in which players will be tasked with solving a series of super-threats that threaten the longevity of the human race. The threats may sound familiar to those of us living in 2008 - disease, global warming, IT espionage, scarcity of resources and more -- but come 2019 they are amped up to near cataclysmic proportions.
Coming on the heels of the highly anticipated Spore, Superstruct seems like nothing more than a sinister twist. Rather than creating novel lifeforms from scratch, you're trying to prevent the extinction of a lifeform you already know all to well (people.)
But here's the rub. This game doesn't come from EA or any of the other usual suspects. It's being released by the Institute for the Future, a think tank of visionaries and smarties that earn their dough by helping members and clients understand what's coming next and what to do about it.
Superstruct is the first in a series of "Massively Multi-Player Forecasting Games," through which IFTF hopes to tap into the wisdom of crowds for some creative ideas about how to solve some of the biggest challenges facing our planet. Here's how IFTF describes the program:
"Superstruct is about building a better, stronger future. It’s about inventing new ways to organize the human race and augment our collective human potential.
With Superstruct IFTF introduces a revolutionary new forecasting tool: Massively Multiplayer Forecasting Games (MMFGs). MMFGs are collaborative, open source simulations of a possible future. Each MMFG focuses on a unique set of “future parameters,” which we cull from IFTF’s forecast research. These parameters define a future scenario: a specific combination of transformative events, technologies, discoveries and social phenomenon that are likely to develop in the next 10 to 25 years. We then open up the future to the public, so that players can document their personal reactions to the scenario. Players are encouraged to “imagine out loud” how their families, their local communities, their professions, or their extended social networks might respond to the game scenarios. They build websites from the future, keep blogs from the future, upload podcasts from the future, make videos from the future, develop research wikis from the future, and host discussion forums from the future. In short, they persuasively record, discuss, and debate the details of how they imagine their own personal futures might play out within the game parameters. In Superstruct, we’ll show you the world as it might look in 2019—and you’ll show us what it’s like to live there."
Pretty noble goals, if you ask me. But this is also an impressive attempt to crowdsource futurism, turn to the masses for creative and compelling solutions to far-reaching issues, and get lots of web citizens thinking about how they can take personal responsibility for making the world a better place to live.
Or come 2042, just a place to live at all...