Conflict simulation, peacebuilding, and development

The World Bank EVOKEs the power of social network gaming

The World Bank is also getting into the use of online games to engage youth (especially in Africa) with EVOKE, a newly-launched social networking game.

This isn’t entirely a game in the usual sense, although it has objectives and puzzles and rewards. Rather, it seems to be using those mechanisms to get young people engaged in a sort of online conversation, to exchange views and ideas, and to interact with more experienced “mentors.” The website integrates blog posts, videos, background materials and a graphic novel style story-telling.

World Bank Institute Launches Online Game EVOKE, a Crash Course in Changing the World

Winners to earn mentorships and scholarships

WASHINGTON, March 3, 2010 – The World Bank Institute has launched an online multiplayer game, EVOKE, designed to empower young people all over the world, but especially in Africa, to start solving urgent social problems like hunger, poverty, disease, conflict, climate change, sustainable energy, lack of health care and education.
Over 4,000 participants from more than 120 countries and territories pre-registered to start playing on March 3. They will be challenged to complete a series of ten missions and ten quests — one per week, over the course of the ten-week game.
“EVOKE helps players learn 21st century skills to become the social innovators who shape the future,”said Robert Hawkins, a Senior Education Specialist at the World Bank Institute, and Executive Producer for the game. “Top players will also earn real-world honors and rewards, namely mentorships with experienced social innovators and business leaders, and scholarships to share their vision for the future at an EVOKE Summit to be held in Washington DC.”

Players who successfully complete ten online missions in ten weeks will also be able to receive a special distinction: World Bank Institute Social Innovator – Class of 2010.
The project began as a response to African universities’ desire to engage students in real world problems and to develop capacities for creativity, innovation, and entrepreneurial action that will be the engine for job creation now and in the future.
“An evoke is an urgent call to innovation,” says the game’s creative director, Jane McGonigal. “When we evoke, we look for creative solutions and learn how to tackle the world’s toughest problems with creativity, courage, resourcefulness and collaboration.”

Set in the year 2020, the game’s story follows the efforts of a mysterious network of Africa’s best problem-solvers. Each week, as players unravel the mystery of the Evoke network, they will form their own innovation networks: brainstorming creative solutions to real-world development challenges, learning more about what it takes to be a successful social innovator, and finding ways to make a difference in the world.
“In the world of the EVOKE graphic novel, the people most prepared for the problems of the future are the ones who are grappling with them today,” says EVOKE story director Kiyash Monsef. “And that’s exactly what our players are doing by participating in this game. They’re preparing for the future.”


For more information, please visit
Watch the game trailer at:


  • The game is free to play and open to anyone, anywhere.
  • The game begins on March 3, 2010 and runs for 10 weeks.
  • Developed by the World Bank Institute, the learning arm of the World Bank (, and sponsored by InfoDev ( and Korean Trust Fund on ICT4D which funds cutting edge projects supporting ICT and sustainable development.
  • Directed by Jane McGonigal, award-winning alternate reality game director (
  • Developed by Natron Baxter Applied Gaming (
  • Art for the graphic novel is by Jacob Glaser (

While it is certainly innovative, on a quick few minutes of play-through I found it all rather complicated, lacking in either engaging competition in a game sense, or a fluid and obvious social networking interface. Of course, I’m not the target audience, and perhaps it works better when combined with some offline instructional support. Then again, I’m not exactly a social networking neophyte or RPG newbie either. As for the message on innovation and social development, I’m not sure that jazzing it up in clothing of secret future superheroes fighting global problems informs more than it distorts and confuses. As for Japan facing a famine in 2020? It is certainly a nice role-reversal on the Africa-in-peril theme, but it all seemed a bit of a stretch.

It will be interesting to see what the reaction to this one will be.

2 responses to “The World Bank EVOKEs the power of social network gaming

  1. Rex Brynen 11/03/2010 at 8:18 pm

    I’ve added some additional comment at the World Bank’s EduTech blog.

  2. Gary Milante 07/03/2010 at 11:21 pm

    Rex, I think this is a fair assessment of the game. I respect that they were going for open-ended social interaction and not a “game” with victory, end game conditions and rote learning objectives. At this stage, it seems a little too “edgy” and slick, with not much in the way of substance.

    On the other side, though, I read through a bunch of blog posts and saw some very thoughtful musings by lots of people at very different levels of understanding on topics associated with development. The “power up” mechanism where you can reward people’s posts allows one to endorse good postings and give guidance to the poster in a positive way (instead of just scoring posts, allowing users to give power-ups on ten positive dimensions provides for useful feedback that is also constructive).

    On top of that, the users themselves are starting to develop some order in the chaos – search for “Game 1” under blogs and you can see an example of users starting to try to understand those ten powers and what they mean. The user created missions are also pretty interesting (starting to think about creating a WDR mission, myself)…

    Plus, they’ve managed to get 8000+ “agents” signed up in less than a week, it is no WoW, but it is an interesting phenomenon. While I agree with you that at this stage it really isn’t much, I am curious to see what develops over the next few weeks….

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