You hear that term bandied about in innovation circles. In application, it isn't that frequent as "game-changer" implies something that leapfrogs one out of the lock of a current system, institution, industry, regime, paradigm and defines its own brand-new game.
I hadn't connected the dots with the synchronicity of hints and winks that life is a grand "game" until recently.
I sat down to eat lunch the other day, and absentmindly (well, could almost replace instinctually or spontaneously with "absentmindedly") pick up the top magazine in my Mom's pile to browse through for eye-candy. (Not typical for me; if I am going to read while eating it would be the Internet.)
I open up her recent Elle to the story of Jane McGonigal. The article profiles her life and her purpose: fleshing out her childhood joy into a profession, announcing her new game company, showing how she got into real-world gaming (differs from video games in that it interleaves real-world issues and real-life experiences with game mechanics), and the head injury that instigated her latest game: one that helped her regain her joie de vivre and her health.
So I thought: what if we were to repurpose Jane's concept of "how to turn recovery into a multi-player experience" into "how to turn economic recovery into a multi-player experience?" And I don't mean recovery as in return to the past or status quo. Perhaps dynamically better than yesterday: I like what Umair Haque says here about the classic Greek principle of eudaimonia: "Eudaimonic prosperity, in contrast, is about mastering a new set of habits: igniting the art of living meaningfully well. An active conception of prosperity, it's concerned not with what one has, but what one is capable of."
I'd been thinking that economics and money touches just about everyone's life--okay, nix that for fairies, elves and dragons. But humans are fairly enthralled (dare I say, seduced) by this whole game of exchange of gifts that includes bits of colored paper and tinkling coinage.
"You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete." - Bucky Fuller
Backtrack a bit to May 2009, I was working on a grant proposal that tied into New Orleans' "Creative Recovery." (For context, "Creative Recovery" grants were through Transforma Projects mini-grants: "The Creative Recovery Mini-Grant program supported work produced at the intersection of art, social justice, and recovery in New Orleans. It fueled the recovery process with the energy of the local creative community by supporting the vibrant activity on the ground level.")
I realized after I'd dreamed it and written it up (then, reading the fine print) that I disqualified for applying for the grant as I was no longer a permanent resident (however, I was in New Orleans at the time). The seed of the idea kept tugging at me, so I wrote it up as a real-world game concept in February 2011. Here's the original Kickstarter project proposal here (unfunded); although, the concept has evolved considerably.
"The "next Google" is unlikely to be a search engine, however, just as the "next Microsoft" was not a desktop software company. I used competing directly with Google as an example of a problem with maximum difficulty, not maximum payoff. Maximum payoff is more likely to come from making Google irrelevant than from replacing it. How exactly? I have no more than vague ideas about that. I wouldn't expect to be able to figure out the right answer, just as I wouldn't have expected anyone to figure out in 1990 what would make Microsoft irrelevant. " - Paul Graham, entrepreneur, angel investor, and founder of the tech start-up incubator and education program, Y Combinator
At this point in my musing, I'm reacquainted with an old blogging buddy in his private Google+ circle last week, and he linked to the article below. (Worth reading the whole she-bang for context and inspiration.) My friend asks his circle how we might use Google+ to correspond with each other and take action towards life-enhancing visions of the world (or what I also call a Renaissance). That's when things get intriguing...
The article my Google+ buddy shared to kick off the private circle discussion:
"Put what, why, and who you love ahead of what, why, and who you don't, and your roadmap will begin to write itself.
Now, my little principle might cause those with hand-made suits and beancounterly tendencies to leap out of their chairs and hit me with the tarantallegra jinx. But even the cynics might be willing to admit: given a mysteriously non-recovering "recovery" for a global economy perpetually poised on the brink of perma-crisis, the status quo's out of ideas, out of options, and running out of time.
In an economy dedicated to the pursuit of more, bigger, faster, cheaper, nastier, the greatest hidden cost and unintended consequence is that something vital, enduring, resonant, and animating has gone missing from our lives — and it might just be the biggest thing: meaning in what we do, and why we're here." - Umair Haque, "A Roadmap to a Life that Matters," Harvard Business Review blog, July 13, 2011
I was surprised to see this article in the Harvard Business Review blog--it's a bit warm and fuzzy for HBR (at least the HBR that I recall from years ago)... although a great sign... sign... signal, design... as the article lays out a design intention as in William McDonough's mantra: "Design is the first signal of human intention."
Linked in the above post is Umair's post on eudaimonia, Greek philosophy of "a deeply fulfilled life", where Umair contrasts the trajectory we are on with what we may prefer to set into motion, into design. In my own blog (see purpose paragraph under the headline, Crossroads Dispatches), what he calls eudaimonia I've encapsulated as:
"A neo-renaissance, eco-epicurean savors, curates and shares slices from the surf's edge on the inspiration, imagination, the art of living, the living of art - and anything that screams Life."
"In short, I see an outcomes gap: a yawning chasm the size of the Grand Canyon between what our economy produces and what you might call a meaningfully well-lived life, what the ancient Greeks called eudaimonia.
The economy we have today will let you chow down on a supersize McBurger, check derivative prices on your latest smartphone, and drive your giant SUV down the block to buy a McMansion on hypercredit. It's a vision of the good life that I call (a tiny gnat standing on the shoulders of the great Amartya Sen) hedonic opulence. And it's a conception built in and for the industrial age: about having more. Now consider a different vision: maybe crafting a fine meal, to be accompanied by local, award-winning microbrewed beer your friends have brought over, and then walking back to the studio where you're designing a building whose goal is nothing less than rivaling the Sagrada Familia. That's an alternate vision, one I call eudaimonic prosperity, and it's about living meaningfully well. Its purpose is not merely passive, slack-jawed "consuming" but living: doing, achieving, fulfilling, becoming, inspiring, transcending, creating, accomplishing — all the stuff that matters the most.
. . . . Though it harks back to antiquity, eudaimonia's a smarter, sharper, wiser, wholer, well, richer conception of prosperity. And deep down, while it might be hard to admit, I'd bet we all know that our current habits are leaving us — have left us — not merely financially and fiscally broken, but, if not intellectually, physically, emotionally, relationally, and spiritually empty, then, well, probably at least just a little bit unhealthy. Eudaimonic prosperity, in contrast, is about mastering a new set of habits: igniting the art of living meaningfully well. An active conception of prosperity, it's concerned not with what one has, but what one is capable of." - Umair Haque, " Is a Well-Lived Life Worth Living?," Harvard Business Review blog, May 12, 2011
So this is a backstory on the genesis of the game. I've a few ideas for an enchanting real-world game that'd be worthwhile for each of us individually--and widening the circle, collectively. I think the "economic" recovery is a matter of re-imagining our present and future as to what we would truly desire no holds barred, rather than constantly extrapolating scenarios of the past onto the future.
To tie this in all together to the present day, Google+ could be an effective way to communicate with our "allies" (i.e. us) on a near-daily basis to play a game I'm formulating. (I'll admit this is much simpler if you already use Gmail as your hub, as I do, then it's integrated into your Internet experience.)
Allies is the multi-player aspect of the Super Better game that Jane used day to day to recover from her injury and post-concussion syndrome; so it is not a game of solitaire ;)
Please let me know if you need an invite to Google+ by August 1st (I may not check comments at this post later).
If you have game suggestions, or other suggestions, please let me know in comments or over at Google+. And, please note, if you go over to check Google+ out, you are viewing the public posts. The way Google+ works is you have to be in my circle to view the super secret ones ;).
p.s. Jane McGonigal's new company, Social Chocolate, initially starts an online verson of her Super Better concept game that she used to recover from her own head injury; she's extended the game for any type of injury and/or illness (yet to be released, forthcoming). I've been thinking of what game-changing means in terms of healthcare and other fields too--but that's another story.
p.p.s. I'm well aware of the "this is a first-world problem" argument. We start where we are ourselves and branch out inclusively from there; it's not advocacy on public policy. This engages people to people. The game is meant to be something you can personally participate in.
ART CREDITS: Cy Twombly's Camino Real; iron hoop trundling was popular in the 1960s and 1970s in China; hoop trundling boys circa 1830 in New York City via Funny Emails; an American Indian hoop game via Buffalo Post.