A Review of Evoke
A few weeks ago, I became an agent
on in a global network of social innovators. Urgent EVOKE: A Crash Course in Saving the World opened on March 3, 2010. It’s supposedly a game, a social network of innovators, and a open forum for ideas, all in one. It was designed and is directed by Jane McGorigal for the World Bank Institute.
The Beginning of a New Game
EVOKE has been open since March 3, 2010, roughly 3 weeks and already has more than 1300 members. The game will last 3 months, concluding on May 2010, with a new quest and a new mission unlocked each week. In the first mission agents were asked to describe themselves, be visionaries of the future, and help solve food crisis around their communities. I think that this was a good topic, but lacked character in the way it was presented.
The first thing I looked at was this 90-second trailer: EVOKE trailer from Alchemy on Vimeo. I thought the trailer was banal and uninteresting. This is because the “inspiration” of being a superhero is too much of a cliché that has been beaten to insignificant in the media. In addition, the voice of a calling sounded to me like a crappy imitation of the old Power Rangers saga. I was so uninterested in the game after the trailer that I did not even want to try the game.
I don't like the way the story is presented, because the comic novel lacked an ideal and realistic storyline. It may appear to be realistic to some people, but the story is somehow disconnected, lacking a foundation or framework from which to build up momentum. The reader is thrown these ideas of saving the world out of nowhere with no emphasis on developing a sophisticated theme or plot. Moreover, the illustrations, though well drawn, lack the unity of pictures that tells a story seen in good graphic novels. Evoke’s storyline as a graphic novel has the appearance of fragmented versions of an otherwise coherent content. It is as if reading about superheroes without knowing what the superhero stands for or what he/she aims at doing. Because of the previous reasons, I find the game having a very obtuse and blunt beginning.
Each week, players are introduced to a different topic that has roots in societal problems. Players need to complete a quest and a mission with three independent parts labeled, learn, act, and imagine respectively. The quest consists of describing personal strengths and interests, as well as, conveying personal thoughts and hopes. My favorite quest so far was the second one. This quest was interesting because it tries to find the foundations of personal motivation. The problem with the quest was that I did not have the motivation to “play” Evoke. On the surface, this quest was to write about what makes a person interested on what they do every day. Nevertheless, there is a psychological part that I find very meaningful. The task of targeting ones inner motivation is a very difficult process, yet we are somehow conscious of it.
In my missions list, I am enjoying the learn part the most because through them one can actually learn more about the global society and the challenges that humanity faces. As a future engineer, I might be able to work on real solutions to these problems in the future, so learning about the sources of these problems is a good advantage to my future career. However, I find the learn missions’ main objective and guidelines to be somewhat dull because it goes on tangent to the issues rather than involving the direct application of a specific knowledge acquired after learning about the topic. My best mission so far has been the first week, the one about food crisis. This mission has an interesting topic, but somehow, I regret to say, the nature of the game Evoke kills its significance and stimulation. It is not the same addressing this topic in Evoke than really learning the importance of this topic in a socio-economical context presented in real life. Although the game is “based” on real life, the creation of the topic in a “gaming” context with the boring caricature description make the topic seem a joke.
Some Thoughts on Evoke
When I first started playing Evoke, I thought that it was the most stupid thing I had ever seen in my life. Now, I'm wondering what it is really to accomplish solutions through innovation in the real world. The most interesting part of the game is how it tries to push people to take action and face real problems in society. However, I do not believe that the game would have a real impact, if there is any at all, in society. I do not agree that putting society’s problems in a gaming context would aid in solving them. Rather, in the future, people would think of them less seriously, primarily because the idea of a “game” has been associated with it.
Some have even wondered if Evoke is a game. I think Evoke is definitely not a game, but a different type of a blogger’s site. It does not have the feeling of entertainment present in any real game. Besides, there is no action and no grand realization after completing a mission. We watched a TED video in which Jane McGonigal explains these types of games, and I'm thinking now that the idea behind this game is fantastic. What a loss that the idea did not take shape in Evoke. I must, however, admit that the game is somehow successful in creating a network of thinkers that share the enthusiasm of facing society’s challenges.
I am looking forward to the next episodes of Evoke, because I somehow hope that it becomes more interesting and that the idea behind this game do materialize. I wish I can find the spark that will ignite my interest amid the trifling characteristics of the game, because I can feel the importance of the themes behind it.