Save the World by Playing Games

Sometimes things are a little counter-intuitive.

For example, game designer and social activist Jane McGonigal believes to help ‘save the world’ we all need to spend a LOT more time playing computer games.

Confused ?

Just consider for a moment that the players of the world’s most popular online game, World of Warcraft, have spent a combined total of 5.93 million years playing online – solving problems, working together in teams and overcoming difficult challenges.

Watch her TED talk below, get rid of your ‘I’m no good at life face’, put on your ‘Epic Win’ face, and perhaps try your hand at a couple of the games below.


A free to play, ten week long, online game, open to everyone – develop your superpowers to take on social innovation, food security, the future of money and crisis networking !


It’s 2020. Climate change has been ignored, resources are running low and the world is faced with environmental and financial crises. Can you solve the world’s problems – you decide: prevention and response, social change, technological breakthroughs, alternative power . . . manage them as you see fit.


Game simulation that challenges assumptions about relief work in disaster situations.


Celebrity World Saving? Hold the Cynicism

Here’s the dilemma . . .

International celebrities have huge media profiles, armies of fans, important connections and incredible potential to do high-profile good in the world. Their pet-causes, charities and foundations receive great attention, and raise awareness for millions across the globe.

On the other hand they tend to have carbon-heavy lifestyles, own great private wealth – the jets, the cars, the mansions, all too often end-up promoting products with dubious environmental credentials, and aren’t everyone’s idea of what an environmental or social justice advocate should look like.

There seem to be plenty of voices criticising celebrities who adopt good causes, but personally I’m inclined to give them a break. In many respects they’re just the same as everyone else – trying to do the right thing, but struggling to live their daily life. Does the fact that Leonardo DiCaprio flies a zillion miles a year make him any more of a hypocrite than you or me driving to work ?

I think those of us trying to make a positive difference in the world should take all the help we can get . . .

1 – Leonardo DiCaprio

Leo is often described as a committed environmentalist – creating and producing the documentary 11th Hour in 2007, and more recently has been involved with the Greensburg Eco-Town project, to rebuild a Kansas town destroyed by a tornado, as a ecologically and economically sustainable town.

2 – Cameron Diaz

Cameron was a member of the Pangea Day advisory board, an organisation that aims to use film as a way of helping to bring people together to create a positive global future. She’s also worked with the food education organisation Nourish, and made the film Cameron Diaz Saves the World about our use of natural resources.

3 – Matt Damon

Matt has been involved in a huge range of humanitarian and environmental concerns, including founding H2O Africa and the Not On Our Watch organisation, which aims to focus media attention on global atrocities and genocides. He is a spokesperson for the foodbank organisation Feeding America and also produced the films The People Speak for historian Howard Zinn, and Running the Sahara.

4 – Robert Redford

Robert has a long history of humanitarian and environmental campaigning, including Native American rights, ecology and was vocal against global warming as long ago as 1989. He is a trustee of the National Resources Defence Council and runs The Green series of programmes.

5 – Brad Pitt

Brad has a longstanding interest in architecture, and after hurricane Katrina devastated much of New Orleans, helped set-up the organisation Make It Right 9, to rebuild part of the city with green homes, for which he won an award from the US Green Building Council. He also works with the ONE Foundation, and narrated the excellent E-Squared green design series.

Photo by JumpyJodes, via Flickr

Culture Jamming

What is now known as culture jamming, is the subversive use of existing images in a way that makes us question their original message or meaning – and is used by various groups (such as Adbusters) and individuals (such as the graffiti artist Banksy) as a form of protest, or to draw attention to a social or political cause.

I Hate Mondays, by Banksy

The Flower Chucker, by Banksy

Global Warming, by Banksy

I Remember When All this was Trees, by Banksy

West Bank Wall Grafitti, by Banksy

Jungle Book, by Banksy

Picnic, by Banksy

Google Image Search for Culture Jamming

We can’t do anything to change the world until capitalism crumbles. In the meantime we should all go shopping to console ourselves. – Banksy

Photo – ‘Keep Your Coins’ by Banksy.

Rebel with a Cause

Guest post by Billmob – Next Starfish’s Dad

What makes us rebel ?

What makes normal, everyday people who disagree with the ‘way things are’, challenge the status quo and protest – whether the issue is civil rights and democracy, tuition fees or pensions, protecting the environment and the nation’s forests or opposing a war?

One factor, according to Dr. Frank Sulloway from the University of California, Berkley, is upbringing – specifically being a younger sibling. According to Dr Sulloway’s book, Born to Rebel, laterborns are statistically 4.6 times more likely to rebel against convention.

The best way for younger infants to guarantee their food and shelter lies in grabbing their parent’s attention away from their older brothers and sisters. Firstborns often try to conform to their parent’s ideals, as that is the best way to establish their position in the family, but younger siblings are much more likely to turn convention on it’s head in their attempts to win parental affection.

Several notable successes were former rebels, including: Stephen Fry, the middle child of three, expelled from two boarding schools and later imprisoned for three months for credit card theft, Barack Obama, who grew up with eight half-siblings  who studied the bare minimum, in college, and famously ‘partied hard’, and Bill Gates, who waged war as a teenager against his parents, to such an extent that the family went to therapy for two years, his farther later allowed his headstrong son to rebel which improved their relationship, and contributed to Bill’s success.

Does rebellion work?

Clearly sometimes it does.

We live in a connected age, with endless amounts of  information readily available on a whole range of issues. The question for us all is do we get involved or not ?

One thing is for sure, unless we bring the issues we care passionately about to the world’s attention, then nothing will change.

I well remember my first encounter with rebellion back in 1972, when as a young Trades Unionist I supported the coal miners’ call for industrial action at Saltly Gate coking plant in Birmingham, where along with twelve thousand other striking factory workers, we successfully forced the reopening of negotiations.

So, fellow rebels, the choice is yours.

Speaking to an audience recently in Soweto, South Africa, Michelle Obama urged:

“reject the false comfort that others’ suffering is not your concern, or that if you can’t solve all the world’s problems then you shouldn’t even try . . . refuse to remain a bystander when others are suffering”

Photo by Ra Hurd

10 Ways to Change the World from Your Keyboard

Spend too much time staring at a screen ?

1              Free Rice

Free Rice is a website run by the United Nations World Food Programme. Users play educational multiple-choice games, and for every question answered correctly 10 grains are rice are donated to the food programme by advertisers on the site. Since the sites launch in 2007, enough rice has been donated to feed over 4 million people, for one day.

2              38 Degrees

38 Degrees is a UK non-profit site that coordinates and promotes political activism campaigns and awareness raising across a wide range of issues; such as tackling climate change, democratic media ownership and child poverty. It takes it’s name from the angle at which human triggered avalanches are most likely to occur.

3              Sparked

Sparked is a micro-volunteering network, providing convenient online volunteering opportunities in support of a range of good causes. It aims to provide meaningful opportunities that can be carried out in about the same amount of time most people spend updating Facebook, Farmville or Twitter. No particular skills are required for many of the micro-volunteering tasks.

4              Give Positive Feedback and Encouragement

We all enjoy receiving positive support and encouragement – it can help push us on and revitalise us, improve our mood and make us feel more positive and generous towards others. Yet many of us are slow in offering support and encouragement to others, with the internet in particular prone to an excess of critical and aggressive comments. We have internet trolls, but there’s no equivalent word for people who regularly spread ‘good vibes’ over the web. Make someone’s day – email, post, or Twitter them some love.

5              Amnesty

Amnesty has been working to demand justice for those suffering human rights abuses since 1961, winning the Nobel Peace Prize as an organisation in 1977 for its work against torture. Amnesty have always encouraged their members to write letters on behalf of political prisoners and others throughout the world, and they now have an email action facility on their website.

6              World Community Grid

There are several grid-computing organisations that seek volunteers to ‘donate’ their computer’s processing power when not in use for different projects, at no cost to those volunteering. World Community Grid partners with IBM to support a variety of research projects, including medical research into cancer, muscular dystrophy and HIV.

7              Avoid Junkmail with the MPS and Royal Mail

We all complain about it, over 17.5 billion items of unsolicited junk mail drops through our letterboxes every year, 650 items per letterbox on average. Over half a million tonnes of paper are used, requiring more than 16 billion litres of water, not to mention the energy requirements. Most of it goes straight into the bin.


Change .org is an American based international online social activism site, similar to 38 Degrees, but different in that campaigns are launched by members themselves. Recent campaign have included fighting wrongful deportations, environmental protection, and various alleged human rights abuses.

9              Register as a Blood or Organ Donor

It’s now easier than ever to register online as a blood or organ donor. You can book a blood donation session at a convenient location, and the site will send you reminder emails. There is a severe shortage of donated organs in the UK, and the NHS Blood and Transplant Service is actively encouraging many more donors to register, to assist next of kin with difficult decision making.

10           Kiva

Kiva is a microfinance organisation that allows people to lend money to specific entrepreneurs and projects in the developing world. It is based on the microfinance principles developed by the Nobel Prizewinning economist Muhammad Yunus, loaning small amounts of money, typically a few hundred dollars, to small business owners, who would otherwise have no access to capital to expand. Loans to Kiva can be made for only $25, and are then repaid back to donors over a number of months. Since its creation in 2005, Kiva has lent over 211 million dollars to small entrepreneurs in the developing world.


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