Agency in a Box? An X-Box maybe.

 

When Obama won the presidency in 2008, I witnessed a remarkable

digital event. After spending the evening with friends, my son and I

arrived home and he jumped onto Facebook and Xbox

simultaneously, accepting congratulations from around the world. On

the speaker I could hear all the accents and references to Facebook

posts.

 

After this multi-platform celebration, his friends began to play games

again, but my son merely stood by socially, chatting and ribbing and

integrating what he learned into new conversations. I asked why he

wasn't playing; he told me he only went ‘there’ because his that’s

where he’d find his friends, that he didn’t really like to play the games

(this explained why he sometimes went Benedict Arnold and shot his

teammates). He liked to learn from people around the world, new

points of view, catch phrases, trends and social chatter.

I thought of this often as I spent the next few years messing around in

a game of sorts you may remember as Second Life. Like my son, I

don't really think of it as a "game", but a place to converge and learn

about people and ideas from the around the world. I see myself as a

synergist, picking up from nearly everything I see or read something I

 

can integrate into my work, be it my art or strategic media planning.

Inside Second Life, we've discovered a world of content creators. Sure

the ‘porn’ underworld is still there, just like it is in the rest of the

world and the internet, but it’s often integrated into ideas that further

content creation. Like stockings with ornaments that are

manufactured into real world objects overnight via tools like

Shapeways, before others even know they exist - voila a revenue

stream. And don’t underestimate the energy value of an avatar that

simply makes the creator feel super cool while creating.

My virtual experiences coupled with observations of my son’s gonenative

gaming life inspired an idea: the AdGame. If Xbox could be a

place ostensibly for RPGs but really a virtual neighborhood, why

shouldn’t there be a box for all the players in the advertising world?

AdGame would be the nexus of three powerful currents pulling on

media today: Global Decentralized Teamwork, the growth of virtual

personas and their platforms, and Artificial Intelligence.

Global Decentralized Teamwork started as basic freelancing, moved

to more distant off-site piecemealing of business with the invention

of email and the Internet, and went global with the spread of highspeed

connections, video conferencing, and cloud-based

collaboration. The mentality for such teamwork is built into the

supply chain now – people expect to work ‘closely’ with someone

they’ve never and might never meet - but the pathway is still littered

with confusion and the stop-start nature of having to invent the rules

for each new collaborative venture.

 

Part of the problem is that the platform being used in this model is

the real world, with its messiness of time zones, negative cultural

assumptions, and good old frailties of human nature. The real world

has its own pace, one that, frankly, is much slower than what we’ve

become used to when creating a new product or idea. What if we

could minimize the effects of these drags on creativity? That’s a

powerful-if-unspoken driver for the constructors of virtual reality.

Avatars can exhibit all the positive skills, manners, and fortitude that

you are able to conjure within the confines of the worlds they inhabit,

without the undesirable limitations.

 

Even before the a full virtual world were built inside AdGame, version

1.0 would allow seamless communication between all the advertising

players – something like a fun Xbox interface with Elance on the

backend. So when a job is ‘described’

(“posting” being far too impersonal) live by a client, players around

the world would bid on their portion and AdGame would assemble a

team or choice of teams for the client in minutes. Then, when all

parties have agreed, the work is returned quickly as each player feels

the need to support his team (with the occasional Benedict Arnold

weeding himself out).

 

Future versions of the game would allow for greater automation. At

this time avatars are limited to the time their masters are able to

devote to them – what about when they are set free to act without

puppeteers? Artificial Intelligence would offer creative professionals

a menagerie of potential collaborators with the ability to produce

products and ideas at the blink of an eye. Don’t get ahead of ourselves

just yet, you say? Some of us are trying to.

 

In my company’s Second Life sim (which is being moved over to another virtual world soon,

High Fidelity), we’ve built a prototype called theBrainstorm Machine:

put some ideas in, out comes a new idea. As more people and organizations

use it to produce new concepts, themachine will be improved and

eventually be able to improve itself, within certain parameters. As the field of

AI advances, we’ll continue to upgrade, with the goal of a self-sustaining creativity partner.

 

How about that for just one AdGame app? And remember, even

though those apps and automation might end up being the killer

draw to AdGame, people will be staying for, well, the people. The

worldwide connections, the cultural experiences, the Game as a

platform for their work life, and a good portion of their social life as

well. Clients will know just where to go to find an at-the-ready agency

that can get an RFP back in minutes and a job done in hours, but

they’ll also know who they like for certain aspects of their creativity

and personality.

 

And there’s no reason its use would be limited to advertising. Our

industry attracts a lot of creative people, and if they’re already

hanging out in AdGame, why not collaborate on a few songs, or start

a new company? The point is to bring all the ingredients to one place,

where all the players understand the ground rules, then come what

may.

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