WBI’s Online Game, EVOKE, Engages Nearly 20,000 in 10 Weeks | World Bank Institute (WBI)

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  • The first 10 week cycle of the World Bank Institute’s (WBI) and InfoDev’s online alternate reality game, EVOKE ended on May 19, far exceeding expectations for participation.
  • The game features a graphic novel describing the exploits of Africa’s network of mysterious problem solvers and challenges players to come up with solutions to development challenges.
  • The game’s most innovative players will be selected, mentored by experienced social innovators and business leaders, and given seed funding to further develop their concepts.

June 3, 2010—So….what would happen if we created an education project with no classroom construction, no teacher training, and no textbook procurement?  What if we created an online game centered around a fictional comic book story set in the year 2020 with African social innovators solving the world’s toughest problems?

“Not the Bank’s business.”  Some say.  “Let Pixar, Electronic Arts or some other innovative company do it.”  Others say.

Well, we decided to give it a try…

On March 3, 2010, the WBI and InfoDev launched EVOKE – a multi-player online game that supports social innovation among young people around the world.  EVOKE, however, turned out to be more than a game played by a few teenagers, it evolved into a global knowledge platform that engaged nearly 20,000 players over 10 weeks in development challenges ranging from food security to urban resilience to indigenous knowledge. 

What is EVOKE?

EVOKE follows the exploits of a mysterious network of Africa’s best problem-solvers (See EVOKE trailer.) Each week, players learn more about the network from a graphic novel. Players form innovation networks, brainstorm solutions to real-world development challenges, and learn what it takes to be a successful social innovator.

"An evoke is an urgent call to innovation," says the game's creative director, Jane McGonigal.  "When we evoke, we look for creative solutions and learn how to tackle the world's toughest problems with creativity, courage, resourcefulness, and collaboration."

For instance, heroes of the graphic novel took action on a fictional famine in Tokyo. Players were then given a mission to increase someone’s food security in their own community and document the action in a blog, photo, or video.

Participation Far Exceeds Expectations

By the time the EVOKE adventure ended on May 19, 19,324 people from 150 countries registered to play. Players had submitted over 23,500 blog posts (about 335 each day), 4,700 photos and over 1,500 videos highlighting challenges and solutions to the development issues featured each week.

What Happens When You Bring 20,000 Players Together in an Open Innovation Platform?

A lot!

Players posted ideas, found friends, commented on projects, shared information, rated the quality of the information shared, discussed, argued, created, and acted.

Librarians donated time to do research. Someone developed a wiki for the game. Teachers created their own online community within the game. Some players developed an online conference for sharing the best ideas. One player wrote a song about EVOKE. Others planted gardens. 

Players went into their communities to learn about challenges on the ground and shared potential solutions to what they saw and heard. One player collected all of these ideas into a single blog post.

EVOKE has created space for dialogue around serious issues that may not be discussed in other social networking forums. 

What Will Happen Next?

At its core, EVOKE is educative. The game was developed based on input from African universities on the need to get  students interacting with local communities, finding innovative solutions to development challenges and, along the way, improving the skills they need to thrive in a knowledge driven world.

While the World Bank will continue to develop projects that build schools, procure textbooks, and train teachers – EVOKE has illustrated that students of all ages, who increasingly engage with the world through cell phones, social networking sites, and games, can be reached through creative methods that tell a story and challenge them to save the world – not just online -- but in their own communities. 

A handful of the game’s best innovators will be mentored by business leaders and experienced social innovators and given seed funding to further develop their concepts.  A summit will be held in September, 2010 in Washington DC to bring together the games most innovative players, celebrate the achievements of the EVOKE class of 2010, and discuss the future of EVOKE and serious games for development.

Blog & News Coverage about EVOKE