Social and mobile gaming startup Playmatics attained a $1 million investment from several Swiss-based angel investors to develop a “real world game” franchise called Shadow Government the company revealed today. Initially a Facebook platform game, Shadow Government will use economic and sustainability data, and government-modeling software from the Millennium Institute to give players a chance to build and run, or destroy their own virtual countries.
The Millennium Institute is best known as the creator of Threshold 21 (T21) and other government modeling software, research and algorithms. Its tools are used by policy-makers and development organizations to test and plan responses for a range of real-world events. The Millennium Institute’s overall mission is to “empower people and governments to build societies that are peaceful, equitable and sustainable,” according to their website.
Dr. Hans Herren, president of The Millennium Institute — also a fan of SimCity, SimAnt and A-Train — wrote about his organizations’ goals through the media of games, via an email interview with TechCrunch:
Since joining the Millennium Institute, I thought [we could] drive high-quality, fun and educational games with a twofold objective: teach players…about the inter-connectivity of everything around them; and harness global intelligence and wisdom to help build a better world.
Our models are all developed with a System Dynamics paradigm. They allow for the integration of the environment, society and economy into a single interactive and dynamic framework, [which] is unique in allowing inter-connectivity to play out synergies while highlighting unintended consequences so often ignored in policy decisions.
If “real world games” can reach the youth of today, and the leaders of tomorrow, and encourage them to think in this manner about issues, and design realistic solutions, we will have gone a long way in transitioning towards sustainability.
[Shadow Government] will also raise awareness about the services that Millennium Institute offers to governments, the private sector and civil society as well as individuals to better inform their green and fair growth policies and responsible behavior.
Millennium Institute wants the Shadow Government games to be incorporated into curriculum from primary schools through universities. Chief executive of Playmatics, [and of the spin-out startup, Shadow Government] Margaret Wallace noted that the game should be entertaining above all, though it is also educational. She explained:
We see Shadow Government advancing a future genre in gaming. It’s not a ‘serious game,’ really, because we aim to design an entertainment experience. People can use Shadow Government to destroy their own little country, or to wreak havoc where they can. We won’t impose ideas like you have to clean up the environment to advance a level. We want to see an array of behavior and ideas.
We will be able to incorporate real world news and data, sometimes in real-time. We could take a different world-focus [with the game content] depending on what is going on in the world, asking players to create scenarios around the crisis in Japan, or the conflict in Libya, for example.
Seeing how people play, in aggregate, will be one way of crowd sourcing ideas to help or predict systemic issues.
Playmatics was co-founded by game industry veterans Margaret Wallace, Nick Fortugno and Phillipe Trawinka. The company, which currently has 15 full time employees, has designed social and mobile games for the AMC television show Breaking Bad, and more recently for the New York Public Library (with Jane McGonigal).