Elections, Video Games, and Achieving an Epic Win

Electing a candidate is the “epic win scenario,” but we need lots of intermediate waypoint “wins” in between now and then to create a culture of engagement that excites supporters more than ever before. The best possible guidance to building the next generation of political engagement and organizing tools is, surprisingly, the world of gaming.

Consider World of Warcraft. The designers created a game that players have to commit hundreds or thousands of hours to beat, but has a virtually unlimited number of intermediate smaller “wins” to keep players motivated and give them the feeling of optimism that they can make it to the next level.

Some missions require players to band together into small groups to beat them, increasing social interaction and feelings of camaraderie and common purpose. The missions get harder and more complex as the player gets better, but “you’re always playing at the very edge of your skill level, always on the verge of falling off. When you fall off, you feel the urge to climb back on.”

To me, that sounds like how I want political activists and volunteers to feel and act in search of our next Epic Win. Today, those tools exist in only the most rudimentary sense, but I’m hoping that in a year or two, gaming and motivation system principles will heavily affect political outcomes.

(Quotes are from Jane McGonigal’s Reality is Broken. Her work inspires a lot of mine.)

2 thoughts on “Elections, Video Games, and Achieving an Epic Win

  1. This is short, sweet, and brilliant–and you don’t have to like video games to get the point. I am an author, and breaking into the NY publishing business was a herculean task for someone living on a remote ranch in the wilds of West Texas with no contacts in the business and no way to get any. (This was back in the ancient times–the ’90’s, before Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube–not to mention Kindle, et al–changed publishing forever.)

    Now, sitting out here in my 106-year old rock house, the thought of breaking down those golden doors just seemed impossible–IF I looked at the entirety of the task. Instead, I learned early on to set small goals that were all leading in the direction of the one large goal I had in mind, which was, of course, a book contract. That and a bunch of other stuff–like not giving up and discarding books that didn’t sell to write one that did–I finally broke in with a three-book deal. That was eleven books ago.

    When Barack Obama first started to run, Hillary Clinton had already been annointed Queen by every pundit and pontificator and political call-artist there was. When he by-passed the usual Party Machine to reach out to individual, $25 donors online, people snickered.

    Who’s laughing now?

    By comparing a political campaign to video games, you make the same point, and you do it in such a way that should appeal to younger voters, many of whom stayed home in 2010.

    Keep it up.


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