Egyptian Uprising, The Game: The Gamification of a Revolution Edition

This morning we woke to news of President Obama heading to San Francisco to meet with these guys:

*John Doerr, Partner, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers

*Carol Bartz, President and CEO, Yahoo!

*John Chambers, CEO and Chairman, Cisco Systems

*Dick Costolo, CEO, Twitter

*Larry Ellison, Co-Founder and CEO, Oracle

*Reed Hastings, CEO, NetFlix

*John Hennessy, President, Stanford University

*Steve Jobs, Chairman and CEO, Apple

*Art Levinson, Chairman and former CEO, Genentech

*Eric Schmidt, Chairman and CEO, Google

*Steve Westly, Managing Partner and Founder, The Westly Group

*Mark Zuckerberg, Founder, President, and CEO, Facebook

They say he is going to talk about spurring innovation and the economy, but coming on the heels of the Tunisian and Egyptian uprising and with growing unrest throughout the Middle East, I would hope he is talking about something else. These are the leaders of the tools used to bring down the Egyptian Government. On the one hand let's hope he is trying to figure out what happened in the interest of protecting his own job. Tea Parties are one thing, but. . . . On the other hand, is the uprising proof of the superior efficacy of digital tools over boots on the ground? To the leaders of the world this is all new. To gamers, it is just Tuesday. While game makers like Scvenger, Blippy and Foursquare "gamify" life and others theorize about it, the Egyptians gamified a revolution.

Jane McGonigal is promoting her book, Reality is Broken, by pointing out the value of 21 hours a week of gameplay. She argues gamers are developing skills that are useful in the real world and all we have to do is build games to let them solve the problems. However, the gamers skipped the game. The uprising's use of the social web, and for that matter, the uprising itself, is no different from what gamers know as alternative reality games, or" ARGs" - without the "A." Just off the top of my head can point to ARG's for Hellboy and Batman that organized and drove people to real world protests based on a fictitious fact set and imaginary cause. In case anyone ever wondered what would happen in these scenarios if the stakes were real, we saw it played out in Egypt. The leaders of the revolution used social tools to spread a message, gain credibility and encourage protest. If this were an MMO we would say they leveled up, built a guild and went on a quest.

This Internet thing can be scary. Western governments all call for the growth of democracy and the Internet has done exactly that, whether the rest of the world likes it or not. We say the leaders in a democratic administration serve at the will of the people but we are just now providing the voice to show what this really means. Governments are trying to assert sovereign power based on borders in a borderless world. The Egyptian government learned they could not turn off the Internet. The Jordanian government learned they should listen to the voice of the people - hopefully they did it in time.

Don't get me wrong, job creation is important, but if I was in a room with those people tonight, I sure wouldn't be talking about jobs.


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