## Introduction

A little more than a year ago, a world-changing question was asked. The question, word-for-word, was this: “Do you think it is possible to create a game that, simply by virtue of playing the game, you can cause a real variable in the physical world to change?” To put it another way: Can we make a game that can change something (no matter how small) in the physical world? If that’s true…if that’s possible, then the end result is, by definition, a game that can change the world, because no matter how small the variable is, the rules of the game can be scaled up such that there’s no functional limit to what can be changed, and by how much. The quest to answer that question has been a long one, and along the way, a number of startling discoveries were made. What follows is a summary of those findings, along with the methodology (in brief) currently in use to do that very thing: Change the world by playing a game.

## Real World Impact of Gaming

First, understand that the question is not a new one. A year ago was not the first time that question has been asked, at least in one form or another. TED luminary Jane McGonnigal has given a number of talks on the ways in which games can have real world impacts (1) (2) (3). Second, surprising as it might sound to you, there are currently, today, three minor and one major (but still in development) initiatives that answer the question above in the affirmative. Each of these four will be outlined below:

### Free Rice (4)

This is a simple “match the word with its definition” type game. You are given a word and four choices (A – D). You select the choice that is the closest synonym to the word currently in play. For each correct guess, the owner of the site will donate ten grains of rice to famine relief in Africa. Ten grains per correct answer doesn’t sound like much, but when you consider that according to Alexa stats, the site gets an average of 12,000 visitors a day with each visitor spending an average of six minutes on the site. If we assume that a correct guess takes an average of 6 seconds, that’s (12,000 * 6) = 720,000 grains of rice donated every day, 365 days a year. While insufficient on its own to solve for world hunger, this is unquestionably a significant real world impact, created by players doing nothing more than playing a game, and therefore, absolutely satisfying the conditions of the original question.

### Fold It (5)

The Fold It story has become a thing of legend. In brief, a pair of AIDS researchers had been working on a particularly thorny research problem for more than a decade, without gaining much ground on it. Mostly in desperation, one would imagine, they uploaded the parameters of the problem to the Fold.it community with no real expectations. Then something remarkable happened. Within a week, the gaming community had solved it. That’s right. A group of dedicated gamers solved, inside of a week, a problem that had vexed the scientific community for a decade, and brought the world one step closer to a cure.