Ding! Level up, you’ve just gained 5000 experience points for coordinating disaster relief efforts. That’s the goal of the Internet Response League, a group that hopes to harness the multitude of online gamers to use social media to save lives when natural disasters strike.
Internet Response League will let gamers get involved IRL (oh, now I get it) and work on a project that uses skills not all that different from gaming. They want ordinary people to sift through the mass of social media output during a crisis and pick out information that could aid disaster relief workers. If there are thousands of recent tweets with the hashtag #hurricane, relief efforts can’t track them all, but millions of Internet users could go through them rapidly and find people in danger. If Instagram photos show a neighborhood flooding, a social media user who identifies where the neighborhood is could tag it and let emergency services know they need to find another route for their vehicles.
IRL’s founders, Patrick Meier and Peter Mosur, realized that online gamers are a population of millions who could be rallied fairly quickly for this sort of work. They point to World of Warcraft players as their first example, suggesting they could create a web plugin that makes a message appear to players and takes them to a special area where they could identify Instagram photos and assess them by severity of the disaster’s impact. They said they chose WoW because, “we believe that an MMORPG would have the ability to make it seem the most natural.” They could also go after League of Legends players or target players of Facebook games, who outnumber any individual game’s community.
As it’s natural for online gamers to expect some sort of reward, IRL proposes incentives for gamers who take part in the effort with an “IRL Score” that would be shared between whatever games you play and would translate to in-game rewards as well as good reputation. These would probably be cosmetic, such as a suit of armor for WoW players patterned after IRL’s logo. Interestingly, they don’t intend to let players grind for this reward and then walk away; it would only be available to the top percentage of IRL taggers at any given time, so if you don’t keep playing, you would lose the ability to wear it. Well, they certainly understand the psychology of making online games addictive.
They’d need the cooperation of game companies to integrate this kind of program into games, but many would be happy to help. This is a cool way of getting gamers to volunteer to help others in times of need.
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