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February 10, 2012

Gamification & Crisis Communication: Incorporating gaming principles and applications in education and preparedness training with social media

Can games potentially help save the world and maybe help in a crisis situation?  This question arises, and we can certainly learn from various games that teach us essential skills and practices we may need to know in real life.  Jane McGonigal did a presentation for TED a few years ago about how gaming can make the world a better place.

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Gamification is one term that we hear quite frequently regarding new emerging specializations within crisis communications.  Gamification is defined as being a concept of applying game-like principles and applications into various situations.  These situations can range from business practices and checking in (ex. Foursquare) to educating key stakeholders about potential situations and train them to be prepared for them (crisis communication and emergency management practices).

There are several key cases that we can look at presently in crisis communications that are currently implementing gamification principles into their various social media strategies as well as mobile technologies.  SF Heroes, a mobile app preparing residents in San Francisco, helping them prepare on where to go in case an emergency happens and how to connect via social media.  This is one of the first emergency management apps that allows people to use gamification principles in a crisis communication purpose, so it will be interesting to see how these apps through mobile technology evolve.

Another example of including these gaming principles for crisis communications is the new initiative by the US Department of State and the US Embassy in Prague where they created a social media game to catch terrorists and locate missing children.  The game being launched is actually called Tag Challenge, and it will be released only in a couple of series to test it to see whether or not it is effective or not.  The overall purpose of this social media game is to test whether or not this emerging medium could potentially be used as an international law enforcement tool.

With both of these cases, there are certainly some elements that we as crisis communicators have to determine are positive and negative about this emerging use of new technology.  While there is a benefit of increasing awareness and preparedness education in a time of crisis – what are some of the challenges?  What if there is an over-exposure effect or people think they are playing a game when they need to take into consideration the seriousness of the issue or situation?  We as crisis communicators have to make sure we have best practices and guidelines when using this form of technology and practices in our profession and forecast any potential issues that may arise during the course of this particular section of our campaign or crisis communication plan.

If you are interested in learning more about this (gamification + mobile technologies and crisis communications), I will be presenting a pre conference paper highlighting this exact topic at the upcoming ICA Conference in Phoenix.

Hope you all are having a great day!

Best Wishes,

Karen

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