Ah, only if this were real...
The International Serious Games Event in Birmingham, UK, was very likely pranked today by an anti-McDonald's activist group claiming to be a division within McDonald's called "McDonald's Interactive." Supposedly a group helping to train executives through business strategy simulation, McDonald's Interactive added modules to improve the realism of various game elements. But when they added a global climate model to the system, something funny kept happening:
The world kept ending.
The announcement of the results -- along with the slide show used at the Serious Games conference [PPT] -- tell a compelling story, one that could almost be true. After all, major corporations do use business "wargame" simulations for training; I know, I've worked on them (and even wrote a non-computer version of one). And the kinds of results that this group supposedly saw by adding the climate model do match up with what I and others have written about time and again at WorldChanging. There was nothing in the setup for the story that seemed too implausible, except for one thing:
The game was far too good.
Broad global simulations are hard to do; so far, there are simply too many factors that have to be included for something like this to work. Narrow, issue-focused simulations are much more viable, and I could totally imagine McDonald's (or any other global corporation) using a market sim as a training tool. When the announcement mentioned crime rates, though, I was dubious; when it claimed changes to global poverty and hunger rates, too, I knew that this was (sadly!) a hoax.
But it's the best kind of hoax: one that is just possible enough to be believable (and apparently the organizers of the Serious Games International conference believed it!). Better still, it's the kind of hoax that will make people say, "well, why not? Why don't we do something like this?" There are many of us out here just waiting for a broad global sim to hit the market -- something akin to the WorldRun game out of Bruce Sterling's Islands in the Net, perhaps.
If we're lucky, this is the kind of hoax that won't just be a hoax for too much longer.