The year is 2019. The world is afflicted with five major threats. Respiratory Distress Syndrome (REDS) is here to stay. Outbreaks are common, especially in tropical and subtropical cities. The disease, for which there is no cure, has become pandemic, affecting millions of people worldwide.
At the same time, we find ourselves facing a global food crisis. We have continued to convert farmland into much more lucrative real estate development projects. At the same time, we have increased our reliance on fuels derived from crops that were previously used for food. And toxins from contaminated waterways are tainting much of the corn crops.
Speaking of alternative fuels, the panic-driven response to rising oil prices has led to the development of a number of competing and incompatible energy sources. Proponents of wind, solar, and bio-fuel approaches are at odds, while economic devastation has hit the formerly wealthy oil-rich nations.
These are three of the five scenarios in the SuperStruct simulation game currently taking place online. To participate, you assume the role of yourself eleven years in the future. What will you be doing? Who will you be? How will your life be similar or different to your life now? Participants create blogs, videos, photographs, and other media that they post online to help address the problems facing the future society. While the game takes some imagination, the developers are hoping players take it seriously.
The idea is to find out how people will react to certain situations, and use those reactions to make plans for responding to those types of scenarios. Developer Jane McGonigal has done this before. In May of 2007, her “World Without Oil” game asked players to imagine a world where there is a sudden shortage of oil. How would paying $4.00 a gallon for gasoline affect your lifestyle? What would you do to cope with the sudden increase in fuel costs? As it turns out, many of the ideas people used in the game are strategies that we’ve seen used in the last few months as the hypothetical scenario has become reality.
The hope is that the SuperStruct scenarios will help us develop better plans for dealing with these types of crises. And when we talk about 21st Century Skills, using the information available and working together to find innovative solutions to global problems just about covers them all.