World Bank Institute Releases EVOKE Social Game

In an interesting effort to engage youth to solve real-world social problems, the World Bank Institute has introduced a social game entitled EVOKE. The game started on March 3rd and is running for ten weeks, and involves completing quests and missions with the goal of attaining the rank of “World Bank Institute Social Innovator”. The quests and missions themselves involve brainstorming solutions about social problems such as hunger, poverty, disease and conflict, and posting them to the site for the other players to see.

The game itself doesn’t necessarily have much of a score other than completing the full ten missions and quests over the 10 weeks. The many players playing the game seem to enjoy this and discuss the issues on the discussion forum, which is the goal of this game in the first place, so it certainly is working well. It really isn’t a ‘social game’ in the sense of the word that Zynga uses, but at the same time it is a game with various social elements. Each player has a wall, a profile and the ability to add friends. They can chat and talk with each other, and comment and rate videos. There is a true global community, and the emphasis at the site is on fixing some of the big problems in the world. In that sense, the WBI has intelligently created a quasi-game atmosphere in order to incentivize youth players to think about tough problems.

The game has great production value in the sense that the story is presented by full-color comic strips done by the talented Jacob Glaser. The story, in short, is that in the future, players are part of an elite secret squad of Africa’s best problem solvers, and they have to solve the problems of the world. The most recent problem is that Japan has had a famine, and they now have to determine how they can help. The solutions that players provide are reinforced as not just solutions to this game, but real solutions that could help Africa and other nations today.

“In the world of the EVOKE graphic novel, the people most prepared for the problems of the future are the ones who are grappling with them today,” says EVOKE story director Kiyash Monsef. “And that’s exactly what our players are doing by participating in this game. They’re preparing for the future.”

I was curious about the technology behind this, and noticed that after a little digging, I was able to find a little error which revealed some of the technology for the game: Ning. There was an “apps” button on one of the profile pages, and clicking it gave me the message “This Ning Network doesn’t have any Apps yet”. This makes sense and is a very interesting use of Ning. In any case, we’re seeing more big businesses and charities utilizing social games and social networking to help their cause, and it seems like a smart move to me.