Games, like so many social functions, are in the process of being revolutionized by online sharing technologies. Every day, millions of people spend hours online developing more efficient ways to get through World of Warcraft, save Princess Zelda or beat their friends at Scrabble.

If you put away your game console back in the Atari 1.0 days, you might have missed the revolution in gaming that now allows thousands of people to cooperate at once online to solve gaming problems. The latest statistic is that we spend 3 billion hours a week playing video games – many of these hours in cooperative teams of online game players.

Which led us to think – what if those people were engaged in trying to figure out how to make Muni run on time, make our schools even better or put San Franciscans back to work? That is to say, what if we turned our most pressing social problems into games, and turned the energy of millions of gamers towards finding the best solutions?

The idea isn’t new – game theory was developed in the 1950s, and the gamification of social problems is beginning to produce real results. People have already pioneered ways to turn being green into an online challenge. But what if the city of San Francisco began to use the intellectual power of its citizens to game out better solutions to our transportation, budget and environmental woes?

If you haven’t seen game designer Jane McGonigal’s TED talk on this topic – it is most definitely worth the 20 minutes it takes to watch. McGonigal makes the point that the intense problem-solving that gamers engage in – for an average of ten thousand hours each before they turn 21 – could be harnessed to improve the real world, as opposed to virtual worlds.

A few years ago the U.S. Army used a video game to help recruit soldiers. That was back in the Army of One era – and it was essentially all about advertising. Now the US Navy is taking gaming to the next level – trying to harness the cooperative spirit of the gaming community to crowdsource solutions to security issues.

If the Army and Navy are embracing gaming theory to essentially be more destructive, why can’t local governments use gaming theory and the gaming community to be more productive?

For the hundreds of thousands of San Franciscans who are waiting for a 38 Geary that is too crowded, a J Church that doesn’t come, a seat to open up in their neighborhood public schools or a decent job that supports a family – none of this seems very much like a game.

But gaming theory is already being harnessed to improve the real world. Could a SimFrancisco game yield new, elegant solutions to more efficiently deal with our collective challenges? This is a story Reset will be following.

What do you think? Would turning our collective social problems into games help develop better solutions?

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