Urgent Evoke

A crash course in changing the world.

EVOKE Season 2 - my two cents

Evoke Season 1 was a really interesting experience. I learned a lot, and hopefully shared a few ideas of my own. Here are my thoughts as Season 1 wraps up.

What worked

The topics for each mission were great, really diverse and interesting. The multimedia, multi-faceted aspect of each week's topic (graphic novel, text explanations, forum discussions, ways to investigate further / act / share your own ideas) was something I haven't seen before, and I think was an excellent way to allow lots of different styles to find their own entry point. I also liked the "choose your own depth" nature of the missions; I can just do one aspect, or multiple, or even go beyond that. That customizability was a huge draw for me.

What didn't

It seemed at times that it was far too easy to play in a vacuum; I really didn't have to interact with my fellow Evokers if I didn't want to, and what interaction there was seemed to be entirely player-driven. As an introvert without a wh*** lot of time to read through forums, etc, this was actually not entirely a bad thing for me; I definitely don't want to be forced to seek out other players and work with them if I don't want to. But I think it would be a richer experience if there was something at least encouraging me to get out there and read other player's mission evidences and interact with them. I think it would also be neat if there were something in the game encouraging us to interact in person with each other, especially in agent-rich areas like Los Angeles.

I didn't really feel the presence of the game runners. Mostly, I felt like I was doing my missions in a vacuum. The occasional comment from other players was nice, but rare. I know the evidences will all be reviewed once the game ends, but it would have been nice to get some official feedback as the game was going on to see if I was on the right track, or even just positive encouragement to keep going. I know, I know, I just said I didn't interact with my fellow players, and now I'm complaining that I didn't get feedback. But like I said, there was no real incentive for either built into the game.

Also, the points felt a bit contrived. For the most part, it seemed like evidences got points based on how social their writer was, as opposed to how much of a contribution it was. In a few very visible cases, points and attention went to whoever made enough of a scene (i.e., annoying or otherwise negative behavior). Also, the voting system operated in a way such that once I'm on someone's page, I'm encouraged to give them one point, whether their evidence was good or bad. No scaling, no disincentive for awarding points that would make me consider whether I should vote. In the end, these factors made me feel like points were pretty much worthless, not something I could be proud of earning.

Finally, it seems like this game really brought some loonies out of the woodwork. I value diversity of opinion, and I respect all of my fellow Evokers for their efforts. But for most of the game, the vast majority of the loud voices I heard were espousing extremist views, in the sense that they were waaay out of the mainstream in terms of their political, social, economic, or philosophical points of view. At times that made it interesting, but it got boring for me quick. This is because 1) half the time it sounded like something I'd have heard in junior high from a hyperactive classmate, and 2) even the ones that were well-reasoned, explained, and supported were still so far out there as to be impractical in terms of implementation. I'd be much more interested and engaged if they were something implementable.

More importantly, it can close off the interest of many people who might otherwise get into playing. I don't think the mainstream is correct because it's the mainstream, but whether you think mainstream points of view are right or wrong, to continually rail against them vocally without a counterpoint is going to turn off the mainstream, which means less participation and a smaller audience for the game. This seems to happen in lots of online communities --are you familiar with the G.I.F. theory from Penny Arcade? But for something with as much potential as Evoke, I'd hate to see it relegated to an obscure corner of the internet because of the primary tone of discourse among it's members. I'm not sure how to solve this, but I recommend you have reasonable, logical, open-minded people posting in large numbers in proportion to each angry "everyone else is an idiot"-style screed-writer. I think it would also be good to remind people in the missions that 99% of successful change happens incrementally; writing about how our current economic system needs to be tossed in the garbage for a new one isn't as helpful as writing about the next few steps we can take to help evolve our economic system into a better one. (Just an example).

Season 2 Q+A

In addition to the above comments, I have a few thoughts on the questions posed in LEARN10.

WHICH great challenges and social problems should the EVOKE Network tackle next?

I would love to see more on how to effect political and cultural change (without violence or illegal activity, of course). More on guerrilla-style marketing and grassroots efforts to change society. Gay rights, slavery, and the diamond trade would all be excellent other topics. Also, I'd love to see more emphasis on how the problem differs in other parts of the world. For example, in many cases the missions focused on areas of the world where that particular issue poses the biggest problem. And that makes sense; however, it sometimes made me feel like the problems I'm facing here in the US are too small to take pride in tackling. So if, next season, one mission is based around gay rights, I'm sure there will be discussion of the places where h***sexuality is punishable by public execution. But I'd also like there to be some discussion (or at least a mention) of the current battle over the right of same-sex couples to marry here in the U.S. Also, I felt economic case studies and other how-tos were often missing. If we want to educate people on how to actually effect change by starting businesses or otherwise going out there and doing something, talking at a high level about the fact that it was done in another country 10 years ago by some hero doesn't give us much to work with. But a step-by-step guide would. Of course, I suppose agents could always create that...

WHERE in the world should the network try to build up new EVOKE communities?
WHO would you encourage to play Season 2?
I'd love to see more people playing Evoke in the mideast. Also I think I'd love to see more change agents inside large corporations, and inside regimes without political freedom or freedom of the media.

HOW would you change the game for Season 2?
Answer incorporated into the rest of this post.

WHAT new tools would you want as an EVOKE agent?
Media coverage or other strong evidence of this impacting the real world. More guidance/interaction with the people running the game. Real-life meetups or events, even if it's only local get-togethers.

WHY would you come back for a second Season? What more would you want from the experience?
I'd come back if I felt like my presence was actually helping accomplish some changes in the real world. I'd come back if the dominant tone of discourse was more positive, constructive, and focused on real-world changes, even if they're only small ones. More presence/visibility of Jane M. would be a plus as well. Honestly, I'll probably come back anyway, at least to check it out and see how it's going, even if I don't play all the way through.

That's all I've got for now. Thanks for reading!

Views: 9

Comment by A.V.Koshy on May 8, 2010 at 8:53pm
it's the first time i'm seeing a post of yours
enjoyed it
Comment by JWR on May 8, 2010 at 9:02pm
Cool, thanks A.V.!
Comment by Turil Cronburg on May 8, 2010 at 9:10pm
Yeah, like Koshy, this is also the first time I've seen you, I think. :-)

I totally agree with you on the points about it being great that there was so much diversity of media/assignements offered, and about it being unfortunate that there wasn't some kind of collaboration encouragement built in, and about the points being kind of useless.

I do however think the opposite of your perspective about the kinds of opinions on here. I think there was too little outside of the mainstream thinking going on. I didn't see any loonies. Though your definition of loony might be very different from mine. I agree that there were some folks (ok, really just one - Pan/Sarah) who tended to take over and had ideas that were occasionally presented in somewhat less appealing ways, but that's to be expected in any group of people who really care about the world and have the motivation to make it better. And I agree with you that more participation by other people, especially game runners, would have helped that. But really, we are the game runners, in the end. This is our game just as much as it is anyone else's. :-) So it's up to us to be the change we want to see, so to speak. And, since you say you're good at seeing other points of view, and like to play devil's advocate, I'm guessing that deep down, you do appreciate the loud, uncomfortable people at least as much as I do...
Comment by JWR on May 8, 2010 at 9:55pm
Haha, you got me Turil. I'd definitely prefer to live in a world with them then in a world without them. Just that there needs to be a balance, and at least in my little corner of Evoke (admittedly very small, I logged on on average about twice a week and would read maybe 4 posts and associated comments) there didn't seem to be proportional representation.

You mentioned:
that's to be expected in any group of people who really care about the world and have the motivation to make it better
I agree 100%. But part of the huge potential of a game like Evoke is it can attract people who don't yet care about the world, or have motivation to make it better, and convert them };). I think we need make it as welcoming as possible for them, and keep in mind what kind of environment we're creating.


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