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MMOs to help futurists solve world problems?

The Institute for the Future says it will launch a series of massively multiplayer forecasting games designed to employ the wisdom of the crowds in finding solutions to troubling scenarios.

The Institute for the Future is launching a series of what it calls 'massively multiplayer forecasting games' designed to help researchers come up with solutions to long-term global problems. The first game, Superstruct, will launch October 6. Institute for the Future

As has become increasingly obvious over the last few years, games are being used more and more as tools for helping people and organizations work their way through all kinds of problems and scenarios.

That's been the reasoning behind the steady growth of initiatives like the serious games movement, whose practitioners promote the idea of deploying games in education, government, military, and other sober institutions that need new ways to resolve troubling issues.

And now it appears that an august group of futurists is hoping that they can employ large numbers of people to play collaborative games in search of solutions to some of the world's most vexing problems.

That was the word Tuesday from the Institute for the Future, a Palo Alto, Calif.-based think tank that focuses on identifying the directions that mankind will take down the line.

The IFTF said Tuesday it is launching a new research platform composed of massively multiplayer forecasting games--a play on the increasingly well-understood massively multiplayer online (MMO) games genre--designed to "address real-world problems by harnessing the wisdom of the crowds."

The institute plans to launch a series of the so-called MMFGs this fall that they hope will attract participants from around the world eager to participate in futurist research in the guise of game play.

The project is being led by IFTF researchers Jamais Cascio--a co-founder of WorldChanging.org, Jane McGonigal--a leading designer of alternate-reality games like The Lost Ring and World without Oil, and Kathi Vian, who leads the IFTF's Ten-Year Forecast program.

First up is a game called Superstruct, set in 2019, which tasks players with identifying resolutions for five "superthreats" endangering the world's population such as large-scale homelessness, a worldwide fuel war, food shortages, and others.

It "begins with the findings of a fictional supercomputer that, after a year-long analysis, predicts the extinction of the human population" by 2042.

The game will be played across a wide array of social media including wikis, blogs, forums, social-networking sites, and more.

Stay tuned to this space for more on the game and the institute's other MMFGs.