Urgent Evoke

A crash course in changing the world.

You can sit there all smug that you're doing something to improve the world and have a condescending attitude towards this post or you can actually hear valid criticisms against this "game". I'll criticize this both as a game and some profound world changing experience. Hopefully, this strident criticism will point people in the right direction. Go ahead and post what you think needs improvement.


-Powers are arbitrary numbers with no perceivable reward value. In any game that increases your powers, there's an obvious reward. Maybe you can deal more damage to an enemy or gain access to more parts of the game. Here, I just see some number.

-Completing quests or missions offers no perceivable reward value. So I see this light blue icon changed to a green color. That's it?! So let me get this straight. Advancing through the game rewards you with different colors and higher numbers? Are we in kindergarten? This isn't a reward for adults who enjoy games.

-Referencing this as a game is based solely on semantics and images. Having a comic that introduces a scenario and calling contributions "missions" or "quests" doesn't make this a game. A "mission" is actually a topic that is introduced into the site.

Solutions For Gameplay:

-Reward increased power value. Maybe you can cash them in for some kind of extra feature on your profile. Or maybe your increased powers let you do more. A Vision score of 15 lets you customize the colors of your profile. Whatever.

-Completed quests or missions open up more of the game. In any game that's what a quest or mission does. You complete something, your reward is you advance to the next stage. Many games offer cutscenes at the end of a section. Perhaps an extra comic would do. Who knows?


-Wrong target audience. This is the most obvious and most important. Evoke is only going to attract people who already do this kind of thing at other websites and in real life. That's the only reason I did this. Cause I already do talk about politics and philosophy and social issues at other forums. I'm not doing this cause it's more fun any other game.

-Beating around the bush. If the wh*** point of this is to get an "evokation" then why bother to go through this fascade of a game to do it? Just let people submit proposals.

-Selection is subjective. If collaborative thinking is the wh*** concept, why then does it seem the selection for the best evokation fall outside of our collaborative input or anything beyond what staff likes? I can imagine every single college paper I've ever written being more based on objectivity because I required references and evidence as support.

Solutions for Change:

-Improve the actual game. If the desired target audience is a large amount of people collaboratively thinking, this needs to feel more like a game to actually get different people interested. See above under Solutions for Gameplay.

-Alternatively, ditch the game. So that way we aren't beating around the bush and would just submit valid evokations.

-Anonymity. Make this less about social networking cause social bias is introduced. An idea should be rewarded for the merit of the idea alone.

In short, I agree with the spirit of Evoke but find the method pretty much useless and no more different than an internet forum or college program.

Views: 117

Comment by Ursula Kochanowsky on May 11, 2010 at 2:16pm
Agree about the powers being arbitrary numbers. The best I can think of is they'll be used as rating scores by the people judging evokations.
Don't agree with the quests and missions having no value. The reason is this, the missions are set up in such a way where they can be used by officials in your area to see some problems you see and some solutions you imagine. And considering thats where most of the disconnect is, the person who feels like they have no power to affect things, thats pretty powerful. Congratz that you were doing social work before now, but most of us don't know how to begin.
Have you watched jane mcgonigals ted talk? In games we are our most optimistic selves. And I would say that if nothing else, this game has made a wh*** bunch of people so optimistic that they need some let down and reality check.
I needed the game in order to develop an idea. I don't need to win an evokation to know that I can successfully pull it off. The game is more important then the evokation.
Selection is always subjective because its people doing the picking and like it or not, bias is part of our mental wiring. The people who are doing the picking are education specialists in the world bank, the mentors themselves and evoke team so it could fly in any direction. What you have to hope for is the people doing the picking realize their bias and actively choose different. Which I think they will, they're all very smart people.
Tell me what makes one idea have more merit then another?
How do you compare the suffering of groups of people? Is a homeless man on the street more worthy of time and attention if hes in india then if hes in europe? Does a starving child in america deserve less food then a starving child in africa? There are some programs that alleviate the worst injustices but those injustices still exist in other places and require other solutions.
Good game critique.
Comment by Mita Williams on May 11, 2010 at 2:50pm
Thanks for your suggestions Gary. I know that the folks behind Evoke are very receptive to new ideas that can improve it. Right now I'm reading A Theory of Fun for Game Design and I'm trying to apply its lessons about game mechanics and experience to my own experiences with Evoke. I find it a great read.
Comment by Turil Cronburg on May 11, 2010 at 3:06pm
Yeah, to some extent I agree. This isn't a game. This is more of a leadership training. A class or workshop is the model they are really using, with some game elements added onto it for decoration, and amusement, mostly. I still love it, but I really don't think it's useful to call it a game. Maybe call it an adventure? Or a CHALLENGE? I like the sound of that... :-)
Comment by Gary on May 11, 2010 at 3:27pm
"Have you watched jane mcgonigals ted talk?"

Yep. That's what made me interested in this concept, but this is so far off the mark from what she described I don't even know where to begin.

"Tell me what makes one idea have more merit then another?"

Now this is very interesting. Ideas presented anonymously suffer less from bias. Even right now, I payed more attention to Sarah O.Connor.Panamericana's post cause the girl in the pic is hot.

If all I saw was text and no image associated with it, I would simply pay more attention to the text that makes the most sense. When I read Goethe or Leibniz or something, I just saw text. I had no idea what these dead men looked like. It's not like you'll see Descartes on TV. So I took their ideas based on its own merit.

As for what makes an idea have more merit, that depends on the audience and what they're receptive to.
Comment by Turil Cronburg on May 11, 2010 at 3:44pm
Alas, most of what gets submitted anonymously becomes not ideas, but what some call "drive bys". When people don't feel connected to what they put out there, they tend to put out the worst they've got. When they do feel connected to what they put out, they tend to put out their best.

Take a look at Samiran's poll of Evoke Agents for an example. It's anonymous and full of negative votes claiming that people find others "intolerable". But you don't see that here, where people are at least generally connected with their expressions. (Except for a few people who are using fake names and pictures, and who seem to be far more likely to be bash others, and put lots of negative stuff out.)

Of course, I think it's absolutely crucial for people to feel free to express their emotions in some reasonably healthy way, it turns out that doing so anonymously tends to make things worse, since people are not connected to their expressions, and don't really get the satisfaction they need from others validating their feelings. To get that satisfaction, one needs to actually be accepted as a wh*** person, not an disembodied rant. :-)

As for bias, it's actually a good thing, because it's how we decide who we want to support. Good ideas are a dime a dozen (though we can always use more!) but people who can turn those ideas into great solutions are far less common, and those are the people who need to be promoted and supported most of all. Sure, if you want, submit the ideas anonymously, if you don't think you're personally good at appealing to others with your charisma and experience (I know I'm not always so popular!), but when it comes to funding people, bias is valuable as a way to discern who's got what it takes to bring an idea to the ma****.
Comment by darklogos on May 11, 2010 at 3:55pm
Great read. The philosphical of us need to a place to talk. The issue that Jane fails to see is that in game theory "epic wins" are rare and "zero sums" are common. A zero sum doesn't mean that there is a bad progression. It just means that both sides gain no advantage.

Popularity rules the day here. Most people on the leader cloud have tons of friends and send out pms about their latest post daily. That is not an insult to Sarah or Koshy. It is the fact that they network more and have decent content so they get more points. Thus if you want to win you have to think of solution as well as act like a myspace/facebook spammer on crack. The social network element is part of the flaw. So is the voting mechanism. I can give votes all day for no good reason and on pieces that are not really that good. Some how that is supposed to encourage positive change? I think not. You will also find that most of the stuff that gets voted on is what is on the sidebar. So legitamate posts can be destroyed by people commenting over and over again on a more popular post. This reduces exposer for new posters.

I could go on and on but they are not paying me. Good write up. Keep up the work.
Comment by Gary on May 11, 2010 at 4:14pm
Ty for the responses. I'll respond properly to them later.

My wh*** point in this blog post was the fact there was a huge disparity between Jane's talk and what Evoke actually is. It's disappointing. Especially knowing that Jane's vision is actually possible but nowhere near implemented in this site.

I made this post specifically stating what I feel a successful Evoke game would look like.


Even if you just play Wii Sports and barely know about games, I'd still like to hear what people think would be fun but also a game that they feel will help them improve themselves.

I do want to respond to darklogos. Yes, this is pretty much a myspace of intellectualism and a very important problem with the site. Do we really want a Tila Tequila version of a leader who benefits the community? Hell no!
Comment by Ursula Kochanowsky on May 11, 2010 at 6:04pm
I do not send out pms daily. Up until a week ago, my profile was completely locked down to friends only, and perhaps 2 people took the time to read the work there and vote. As a result my evidence is under voted. I am on the leader board but I don't care about points. The only reason i'm there at all is because I know how to rake muck and get attention without upsetting the admins and my work is good enough to be awarded points so that people realize the work is even there at all.
The games you're thinking of are conflict ridden. Evoke would suffer for too much conflict. The conflict of this game is where a person meets real life. Not where people meet people or people meet problems. A game is a mindset more then an actual physical object.
I'm part of a board and card gaming group, i've played MMORPGs, thinking games, lesson games, scenario games. Evoke is a game because for a few moments, you start thinking about how you can change the world. Its a mental shift away from thinking "I can't do anything and don't really care" to "this is what I can do and this is what I can copy to do it so this is how it should happen." Give me another example in real life where suspension of disbelief is common outside of religion and I will tell you that its only in games where you feel you can actually "win" at all.
Winning in this game is defined as a successful evokation. An evokation is a description of a change the world needs and how you're going to do it. The quests and missions help you develop enough of an understanding to be successful at it. For a few moments you need to be able to think, "I belong to a group of people who want to help me succeed and are doing amazing things and we call our secret group Evoke Network and I identify." The Comics are Community Lore and descriptions for how to interact. You need a shared framework of history in order to belong. Evoke is a game in that, you're deciding to belong to a group that doesn't actually exist. Evoke isnt real. It never was real. This is just a framework. But its a pretty good framework for organizing things with minimal interference even if it has its flaws.
The game is thinking you belong when you don't.
Comment by Sarah O.Connor Panamericana on May 11, 2010 at 6:42pm
Who is not on the leader board? Even members that just joined and have 5 points are there.
Comment by Wintermute on May 11, 2010 at 7:09pm
I like you Gary, upfront and honest + your right.


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