EVOKE -- a crash course in changing the world


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EVOKE trailerIn 10 Global Trends in ICT and Education, I included gaming as a trend to keep an eye on.  The gaming industry has been growing faster than the movie industry in the past number of years and is occupying an increasing number of hours of time in a young person’s day. Educational games it can be argued have the potential to reach students outside of the classroom where some traditional educational methodologies are failing. This genre of “serious games” has indeed mushroomed over the past number of years. A number of “serious games” have been developed in the fields of education, business, health, politics, engineering, defense, etc.   In order to better understand the impact and potential of such games, we decided to develop and evaluate an educational game focused on youth social innovation and development – Evoke: a crash course in changing the world


EVOKE trailer (a new online game) from Alchemy (If you are having trouble playing this video in your browser, you can also view it directly on the Vimeo site)

Evoke emerged from discussions with universities in Africa who increasingly wanted to find avenues to encourage their students to engage in local communities and develop innovative solutions to local development challenges. The universities were searching for ways to engage students in real world problems and to develop capacities for creativity, innovation, and entrepreneurial action that many believe will be the engine for job creation now and in the future.

Evoke  therefore is designed to empower young people all over the world, and especially in Africa, to start solving urgent social problems like hunger, poverty, disease, conflict, climate change, sustainable energy, health care, education, and human rights.; to collaborate with others globally; and to develop real world ideas to address these challenges.


Players will be challenged to complete a series of ten missions and ten quests -- one per week, over the course of the ten-week game.   The "text book" for this course is an online graphic novel written by Emmy-award nominated producer Kiyash Monsef.  Art for the graphic novel is by Jacob Glaser, who Monsef describes as "an extraordinary visual storyteller who has been working at the leading edge of the comic world doing motion comics for Stan Lee."

Set in the year 2020, the story follows the efforts of a mysterious network of Africa’s best problem-solvers.  Each week, as players unravel the mystery of the Evoke network, they will form their own innovation networks: brainstorming creative solutions to real-world development challenges, learning more about what it takes to be a successful social innovator, and finding ways to make a difference in the world. 

Players who successfully complete ten online missions in ten weeks will be able to receive a special distinction: World Bank Institute Social Innovator – Class of 2010. Top players will also earn mentorships with experienced social innovators and business leaders from around the world, and scholarships to share their vision for the future at the EVOKE Summit in Washington DC. 

The game's creative director, alternate reality pioneer Jane McGonigal, is debuting the game at this week's TED conference in Long Beach, California.  As she describes the game, "An evoke is an urgent call to innovation.  When we evoke, we look for creative solutions. We use whatever resources we have. We get as many people involved as possible. We take risks. We come up with ideas that have never been tried before. That's what we're asking players to do in this online game. To learn how to tackle the world's toughest problems with creativity, courage, resourcefulness and collaboration."

For the World Bank Institute and our partners infoDev and the Korean Trust Fund for ICT and Development, we very much hope to learn from this game. The evaluation component will try to better understand how serious games such as Evoke could help develop 21st century skills, encourage young people to learn about local development issues, foster social networks and collaboration to brainstorm creative solutions to development challenges, think critically about the future and what actions are needed today to create tomorrow's world; and create an engaging learning environment that is interactive, engaging, and well.....fun. 

Evoke will launch on March 3, 2010 and the site is now open for pre-game registration at www.urgentevoke.com.  Please join us in this adventure!



Robert Hawkins

Sr. Education Specialist

February 12, 2010

This is seriously cool! I don't ordinarily comment on blogs or Bank stories, but I can't not let you know that this is exciting. It makes me want to be a teenager. Can anyone register to play?

Robert Hawkins
February 12, 2010

Hi Kurt,

We are very interested to see how this game can foster the type of broad collaboration and crowd sourcing problem solving that I think is needed to address many of our development challenges. Jane gave her talk yesterday at TED and quoted some interesting stats:

* 3 billion hours per week are spent playing games
* young person spends 10,000 hours gaming by the age 21

How can we tap into this time and energy to solve problems in the real world? Lets find out...

And yes! The game is for anyone, anywhere, any age. So please sign up and play.


Robert Hawkins
February 12, 2010

Hi Ivonna,

Thanks for the positively enthusiastic post. Anyone, Anywhere, Any age can play. So YES, sign up and join in. While we are marketing to university and high school students, we really want to create a community of learners where all players both share knowledge and gain knowledge from each other. Players can play the game in their own way -- just reading the episodes, choosing the missions to respond to, deciding on text, image or video evidence for their missions, rating other players as they see fit, reading and evaluating completed missions and giving them points or powers, reading and responding and posting blogs, friending others and making their own alliances, solving the mysteries of the Evoke network, etc.....

So, yes. See you on March 3.



February 18, 2010

The idea of merging the gaming and education (inc. training etc?) is a great idea, but how widely applied is it really? I'm afraid i'm a bit of a sceptic. If you said to me the US Army were going to train their troops with a series of simulated scenarios i'd say "great! sounds like a fine idea!". If, on the other hand, you said to me "we're going to introduce new grads to the exciting world of banking, finance and accounting through a massively multiplayer online game" ... i'm not so sure.

What do you think? Overly sceptical or disappointingly realistic?

Rex Brynen
March 11, 2010

There's no doubt about the exciting potential of both social networking tools and serious games to deliver educational content—I teach on international development issues myself, and frequently use them in the classroom.

However, having watched EVOKE since its launched, I'll admit to some concerns. Part of these related to interface and playability, where I think the website may have gone for cutting-edge at the cost of playability.

More seriously, however, I have real concerns about the substantive content of the first two chapters of the story, which seem to suggest that food security issues are always a function of inadequate local production (they may or may not be, depending on context), and that solutions such as rooftop gardens or (incredibly expensive!) floating gardens are the appropriate sorts of solutions. They almost never are, of course. Frankly, it reads a bit more like a 1960s "cities of the future" issue of Popular Science than it does any serious introduction to issues of agricultural development, agricultural trade, and food security.

This is a shame, because food security issues have a complexity to them that can be made interesting to high school and college students, without dramatic reductionism. Sure, there are sometimes simple solutions to complex problems. However, as the World Bank well knows, there are more frequently complex solutions to complex problems. There's no point teaching bad agricultural economics just to make it more trendy for teens.

February 21, 2010

I was doing my research on M-Learning for my thesis project and stumbled upon your blog. I am in a very infant stage of my research and till now I thought using games in education has not been really well developed, but after reading your post and watching the trailer I understand that already a lot is being done in this field and there's many more opportunities that remain untapped.

Thanks for the enlightenment.

Payal Mulchandani
Candidate Masters in International Relations
IE Business School, Madrid.

Michael Trucano
March 02, 2010
Kurt Nemes
February 12, 2010

Thanks for the great post. I attened the North American Simulation and Gaming Association (NASAGA)conference last October, and it really opened my eyes to how games and simulations can take learners to a level of engagement I never thought possible. I hope I'm not too old to play EVOKE. I'm definitely going to send to my daugthers, though.
Kurt Nemes

rick davies
October 21, 2011

Hi Robert

Have you heard of anyone experimenting with these type of game structures as a way of simulating the viability of the design of a development aid project, wherein players would take on the roles of different types of stakeholders, and play out the consequences of a development project being introduced into their community/locality? I am trying to explore these possibilities, as an alternative/supplement to the very static planning tools used to design most development projects

regards, rick davies