If Al Gore is right (and not to dig up old dirt, but he usually is), games qualify as mass media. They are “the new normal.” People play in interstitial moments on their phones, or in drawn out battles at their desks. However, in his keynote speech at this week’s 8th Annual Games For Change Festival in NYC, the real message wasn’t actually what he said, but that he was the speaker. Why Al Gore at a conference that focuses on games with the potential to change the world? By his own admission, he peaked at Pong.
Aside from the obvious celeb appeal, Gore’s presence established an interesting link between media and social issues. In the years since he first introduced An Inconvenient Truth, the focus has moved from a political debate about the climate to a global discussion of environmental crisis. Rather than question the crisis, we are now exploring the solutions. As a media savvy entrepreneur (his latest gig: co-founder of Current TV), Gore recognizes the power of media to illuminate issues and entice people to get involved. “Play is important,” he stated. Always has been; always will be. Everyone likes to play. We also like to make social connections, especially in this golden age of mobility. The dynamic intersection of entertainment and social impact is an action waiting to happen. We need a “Farmville for policy.”
While Gore did ask anyone who had ideas on how to turn An Inconvenient Truth into a great game to come forward, his message was far from self-serving. In truth, he was the message. Because, yes, he was the medium. Kudos to Al Gore for putting himself on the line once again.
The Games For Change Festival highlighted numerous new and evolving games for social change. Email me if you’ve seen or played any that deserve mention at firstname.lastname@example.org.