I have played many Online games in my life. The first was Neopets. I got a chance to play Final Fantasy Online for a few months before I attended college. Now I have sampled a variety of free games. I always come to the same conclusion.
I notice the power these games have over people. How the virtual status drives people to spend money and time.
So early in my Neopets days, I started wondering what if? ‘What if Neopets awarded badges for volunteering in life?’ was my original idea. What if when you volunteered a number of hours at the Humane Society (for example) the charity would send this information to Neopets, and you would get benefits in the game. Already children were spending hours of time to get points, what if points could be gained in different ways, that helped society.
This was way before I noticed people spending great deals of money on Online games. Yet, in todays age, people are welling to waste money for a little picture of a cute animal that does stuff inside the game. What if a game were designed so that the profits went to charity. Imagine the bragging rights, when saving up diamonds/coins/keys/whatever enabled you to buy a animal to play with virtually (that might be able to attack, or grow special abilities), and a real animal (like goat or cow) for third world farmers.
People could form in game clubs that saved up profits together in order to buy bigger benefits (in the game and in real life).
You see, people have been willing to play for hours (to the point of death) to gain points/levels/status inside a game. If we moved either some of those hours to volunteering or money spent to charities, a well designed fun game could change the world. That is the Ultimate Game Design, a game that doesn’t just stay inside the computer, but is transformative.