When the Real World and Gaming Collide

The term “massive multiplayer online” (MMO) has meant a lot of things since its inception in the 1990s.  Today, one genre of MMO are social games that include real-time or near-real-time play aspects into their models.  While most social games, such as Zynga’s FarmVille or Mafia Wars, are not really MMO games, others like Sacred Seasons are definitely pushing into the definition of MMO gameplay.

Now, new companies are jumping in with Facebook-based multiplayers that incorporate real-world data into the games themselves.  One game in development, called Shadow Government, is a world simulation that lets players control a country in a hotbed global climate of intrigue and strategy.  The game’s tweak?  Real-world data like changes in diplomacy or economics will be incorporated into the game through a collaboration with The Millennium Institute (a public policy simulation group best known in political circles, not gaming).

MI uses real-time data from the real-world to build simulations that allow comparative analysis of different policy scenarios and public strategies so that politicians, policy makers, and think tanks can better understand the possible ramifications of their choices.  Incorporating this into a video game will be something completely new.

The goal for Shadow Government is to create a gaming experience that is both entertaining and educational as well as challenging.  Sort of a hyped up, souped up, MMO-style Sid Meyer’s Civilization.

Another company in North Carolina is doing something similar.  Fiveonenine Games is building its own social games franchise inspired by current political events.  The idea is to deliver current events and news to children in an entertaining way.  Their first title, called Political Rampage, releases next month.

Between the two companies, we’re seeing the start of a new genre of MMO: the reality-based, social gaming niche.

Will it catch on?  Probably.  Will it becoming the next “Warcraft killer?”  Not likely.

What do you think?

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