Al Gore’s Reality Drop Game Is a Small Step Towards Climate Change...

Al Gore’s Reality Drop Game Is a Small Step Towards Climate Change Awareness


Can Al Gore’s Reality Drop Game Inspire Action?

It’s easy to see why Jane McGonigal and other commentators might loathe Al Gore’s new game social sharing game “Reality Drop.” It feels like it was written by your dorky middle-aged Dad who only knows how to speak corny, and judging by the pop culture gurus she associates with,  Jane is probably disappointed that during this game Al Gore doesn’t pop out of  stage curtains in front of a TV studio audience to scream “look under your seat -Reality has dropped! You win a Prius! You win a Prius! Everybody wins a Prius”

After playing Reality Drop, I find it might be helpful for us to collectively lighten up. There’s a reason it says BETA underneath the title of this game. It needs to be tweaked based on results and user feedback, but it represents a solid effort in climate change awareness for a public that for the most part is not going to do research beyond a superficial glance at what their friends are sharing on their Twitter or Facebook feed, a stream of information often considered annoying and spammy.

We have to be careful what we label spam in the context of sharing information through social media, because one person’s spam is another person’s source of inspiration.  A friend’s checking-in to his gym via Foursquare every day could be interpreted as over-sharing boastful behavior that you immediately hide lest you start to feel slothful. Or it could be seen as a reminder every day that others are making fitness work for them and you can too, (perhaps even by working with that person).

The influence of peers saying “I care about this issue enough to share it with you” combined with a constant information flow about climate change on your social media feed can do much to keep the conversation going in a world of the 24-hour news cycle.  Having just a cursory glance at an article with a climate change headline as you scroll past it does more to keep the idea fresh in your mind than having no article at all.  The Climate Reality Project should be applauded for putting their foot forward into the message marketplace. They are competing for attention with articles about the latest Chris Brown scandal, and I say God speed to them.

It might seem lame to give people points for cutting and pasting climate change information, but if it gets people to share an article about an Ice Age study that’s exploitation I’m willing to accept.

You might not like it but systems like this work. We’ve seen the Israeli Defense Force blog use social sharing incentives and saw a 200% increase in engagement levels..

If they could streamline the website’s interface and package their information more cleanly this game could catch on. A greater emphasis on rallying their team rather than solely vilifying “the other side” will keep them from going the way of PETA in terms of public irritation levels. One lesson we all learned back in 2006 from High School Musical is “we’re all in this together.”

The use of games to bring awareness to important geosociopolitical issues like climate change is an encouraging trend that I hope continues.


  1. I think your point about needing to streamline this effort hit the nail on the head, but then again “hitting the nail on the head” is dorky, middle-aged Dad talk. Sorry. Jane, her circle, and the definition of “spam” are secondary to the user/player experience. Get that wrong, and there’s no product or impact to evaluate.

  2. has taken a very interesting approach to beat the apathy & misconception to spread the word for the cause through gamification! While I can see why Jane does not like it, I am sure this will be a trend setter for social causes with improved gamified sites!

  3. Really there needs to be an overarching game for Climate Change Activism that includes internet and real world activity. Just copying and pasting into threaded forums seems a bit twee, like its only part of the picture and could get a bit repetitive.

    It’s got to be more of a movement don’t you think?

    Rewarding and recognising all sorts of activity like writing to your minister. Signing petitions. Attending rallies. Organising groups in your area. All the things that Obama was doing in his 2008/2012 campaign with Dashboard and wotnot.

    For fun it could have a superhero theme – it’s about saving the world after all.

  4. I agree with Steven. I think as the years continue there will be more of a merge between online and offline activities. I think the best ways to engage, inform, and motivate someone will be a hybrid of the 2 realms.