ARGs & Education, Training & Business

Recently pervasive game designer & researcher Jane McGonigal’s idea about ‘Alternate Reality Business’ mades the Harvard Business Review annual “Top 20 Breakthrough Ideas”. Here is a snippet from Jane’s blog:

In the coming decade, many businesses will achieve their greatest breakthroughs by playing games—specifically, alternate reality games, or ARGs. Custom-designed ARGs will enable companies to build powerful collaboration networks, discover solutions to specific business problems, forecast opportunities, and innovate more reliably and quickly.

Why? ARGs train people in hard-to-master skills that make collaboration more productive and satisfying. Playing an ARG teaches 10 collective-intelligence competencies. These include cooperation radar, a knack for identifying the very best collaborators for a given task, and protovation, the ability to rapidly prototype and test experimental solutions. Using these skills, players amplify and augment one another’s knowledge, talents, and capabilities. Because ARGs draw on the same collective-intelligence infrastructure that employees use for “official” business, games will map directly to a familiar reality—no translation required.

As these competencies mature within a business, ARGs will provide a truly stimulating framework for doing everyday work. Few meetings are as engaging as an ARG, whose emerging narrative evokes players’ shared sense of urgency and whose puzzles and clues deepen their curiosity. The structure for collaboration is clear, with players rallying around explicit goals and continually sharing theories, tactics, and results. Playing also generates compelling momentum: The puppet master monitors and rewards participants’ efforts, and times the release of new challenges so that players experience multiple cycles of success.

Of course, Jane was also involved in the design and community management of the biggest serious ARG World Without Oil. There have been many examples of small-scale ARGs being created for education and training though. Well, recently, ARG designer Dave Szulborski was involved in the design of an ARG for the military. Here is some info from their release:

This is the scenario behind a new ARG created by BBN Technologies and Dave Szulborski, author of This Is Not a Game and creator of five well-know ARGs. ARGs have been used with great success to promote books, movies and television shows and BBN scientists proposed that the method could be applied to serious training with equal success. Now, the US military is testing that hypothesis with the first evaluation of an ARG as a tool for training military personnel. In a month-long demonstration, a group of 124 participants made up of active duty military, reservists, government staffers, and university students is working together to cope with the tsunami scenario. This is the kind of situation that is most difficult to train for; not an acute, episodic crisis than can be simulated in a short course or in a classroom, but a longer term situation that changes as the circumstances unfold. ARGS offer the benefit of allowing trainees to practice the skills needed for such exceptional situations while they continue to do their regular jobs and to develop real relationships in a virtual scenario that will help them respond effectively when they are required to cope with an unexpected situation such as the tsunami scenario.

Bill Ferguson, division scientist at BBN Technologies, one of the partner organizations for the demonstration, said, “The military needs a training solution for longer term, intermediate intensity situations that involve multiple agencies. Because ARGs are inherently distributed and built on complex, engaging scenarios, they are an effective and cost efficient way to train for the long duration, large-scale problems that require individuals to respond both collectively and individually.”

Jointly funded by the Joint Forces Command and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, the demonstration is being executed by BBN Technologies, Dave Szulborski, and Aptima. BBN, which was contracted to develop the tools and pedagogy and administer the demonstration, provides tools to support ARGs under its trademark, Helical Training. BBN engaged Szulborski to develop the ARG’s initial scenario and to build on the rich content as the responses and changing circumstances affect the fictional situation. Aptima will evaluate the demonstration and measure participants’ responses against specific learning goals.

Congrats Dave and Jane!