If agencies could tap World of Warcraft

People have spent 6 million years of man-hours playing World of Warcraft. NOAA's Eric Hackathorn wonders: "What if we put that effort towards something real?"

Computer games are pretty amazing in their ability to capture the hearts and minds of their players.

And if Eric Hackathorn, the program manager of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Fragile Earth Studios is right, federal agencies are only beginning to scratch the surface with gaming technology, which could be used to get a message out, engage the public and even solve some of the world’s problems.

To prove his point, Hackathorn hosted a GSA webinar July 31 about how government can use game technology to its advantage, and how feds can get involved in the Federal Games Guild, which researches that topic.


Related stories:

Government’s serious pursuits sometimes call for a game

How I solved the budget crisis


First, he showed how powerful games are as a lure to players. One of the most popular games right now is World of Warcraft. But even I, a pretty hardcore gamer in my own right, was shocked to learn just how popular that massively multiplayer online game really is in terms of man-hours.

According to Hackathorn, in the 10 years the game has been running, players have collectively spent 6 million years worth of time playing. And even less intense games like the ubiquitous Angry Birds sees 16 years worth of collective time spent playing the game every single hour of the day.

“What if we put that effort towards something real?” he asked.

But to do so, feds are going to have to think like gamers. And that means focusing efforts on gaming concepts like leveling, achievements, badges and the social aspects of play. It’s not about bringing games into the federal space, but about using game mechanics to get jobs done, he said.

Basically, games lay out a path to mastery. Everyone wants to be the best, but not everyone has the discipline to achieve it, Hackathorn said. Games focus that drive and energy and can be used to accomplish great things.

A basic gaming concept that feds can start using include leveling, which means giving new perks, or levels, to players for accomplishments within a game. Agencies can use leveling to reward people for continuing to put work into a project and to clear them for greater challenges.

Leveling, interestingly enough, is almost never linear. Several levels typically are gained early on in a game, with advancement becoming progressively harder as play continues, though the difficutly is balanced by the promise of greater rewards.

Another concept is badge-earning, which is slightly different from leveling. Badges are little icons that are difficult to earn and that can be displayed on a user's social media pages. Not all badges can be earned by everyone, which makes possession of them more exclusive. A good example of a federal game that uses badges is NASA’s Space Race Blastoff game on Facebook.

A close cousin of badges is the leaderboard. It generally shows high scores, but can also be used by government to publicly acknowledge those who most participate in a project, such as crowdsourcing solution. And Hackathorn says it’s best if the leaderboards are divided up somehow, so users can see that they are the fifth most important person from their state or town, instead of being the three-millionth person overall. It’s all about engaging your users.

The website at Fragile Earth Studios has lots of examples of game technology that has been successfully used by government. The projects, such as a perfect 3D model of Rock Creek Park and the ReGenesis Project, where users try to fight a future hurricane in the year 2017, are pretty cutting-edge.

And we have seen successes using this technology before, like the Budget Hero game, which explained the complexities of the federal budget in a fun way.

Hackathorn’s point is that the public is hungry to play games, and a clever agency can harness that powerful draw to improve the way it does business, and perhaps even make the world a better place.

X
This website uses cookies to enhance user experience and to analyze performance and traffic on our website. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners. Learn More / Do Not Sell My Personal Information
Accept Cookies
X
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Do Not Sell My Personal Information

When you visit our website, we store cookies on your browser to collect information. The information collected might relate to you, your preferences or your device, and is mostly used to make the site work as you expect it to and to provide a more personalized web experience. However, you can choose not to allow certain types of cookies, which may impact your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change our default settings according to your preference. You cannot opt-out of our First Party Strictly Necessary Cookies as they are deployed in order to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting the cookie banner and remembering your settings, to log into your account, to redirect you when you log out, etc.). For more information about the First and Third Party Cookies used please follow this link.

Allow All Cookies

Manage Consent Preferences

Strictly Necessary Cookies - Always Active

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data, Targeting & Social Media Cookies

Under the California Consumer Privacy Act, you have the right to opt-out of the sale of your personal information to third parties. These cookies collect information for analytics and to personalize your experience with targeted ads. You may exercise your right to opt out of the sale of personal information by using this toggle switch. If you opt out we will not be able to offer you personalised ads and will not hand over your personal information to any third parties. Additionally, you may contact our legal department for further clarification about your rights as a California consumer by using this Exercise My Rights link

If you have enabled privacy controls on your browser (such as a plugin), we have to take that as a valid request to opt-out. Therefore we would not be able to track your activity through the web. This may affect our ability to personalize ads according to your preferences.

Targeting cookies may be set through our site by our advertising partners. They may be used by those companies to build a profile of your interests and show you relevant adverts on other sites. They do not store directly personal information, but are based on uniquely identifying your browser and internet device. If you do not allow these cookies, you will experience less targeted advertising.

Social media cookies are set by a range of social media services that we have added to the site to enable you to share our content with your friends and networks. They are capable of tracking your browser across other sites and building up a profile of your interests. This may impact the content and messages you see on other websites you visit. If you do not allow these cookies you may not be able to use or see these sharing tools.

If you want to opt out of all of our lead reports and lists, please submit a privacy request at our Do Not Sell page.

Save Settings
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Cookie List

A cookie is a small piece of data (text file) that a website – when visited by a user – asks your browser to store on your device in order to remember information about you, such as your language preference or login information. Those cookies are set by us and called first-party cookies. We also use third-party cookies – which are cookies from a domain different than the domain of the website you are visiting – for our advertising and marketing efforts. More specifically, we use cookies and other tracking technologies for the following purposes:

Strictly Necessary Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Functional Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Performance Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Social Media Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Targeting Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.