In the past few weeks, I’ve become an expert at epidemiology. I didn’t watch a documentary or read a magazine article or take a class — I simply played a videogame called “Plague,” which requires players to pursue a single objective in order to win the game: Place a virus or bacteria somewhere in the world, and mutate it so that it wipes out all humanity.
Within a few hours of game play, anyone will quickly understand not only how a plague can spread, but also how to stop it. And thus the game becomes the greatest teacher one can ever imagine. One thing I’ve learned: If a plague ever starts, shut down the airports.
As it happens, online games are motivating people to lose weight, learn languages, improve their own behavior, solve social and environmental problems and organize political movements.
The biggest draws seem to be social games like Words With Friends — games that involve competition, but more often comparison and even cooperation.
Could we do this in Judaism? More than introduce learning games (which are already common), could we somehow encourage gamification so that people engage in Jewish life more actively?
The way to do it might start as a social competition of some kind. If people simply logged Jewish activities on a website so that positive behaviors are rewarded — even with fictional and entirely valueless awards — you’d suddenly have an immediate feedback loop.