For the past six months, I’ve researched the idea of creating a game that would engage and empower the public to learn legal issues surrounding personal legal services.
Why am I doing this? When I was ten years old, I didn’t dream of being a lawyer, I dreamed of being this woman, a well-known computer game designer. When I went to college, computer science as a major was in its infancy and a class in game design was unheard of. Life happens. About six months ago, a friend pulled me back into gaming as a hobby – something I had sacrificed to give attention to my children when they were babies. Now back into gaming full force, I remembered how powerful it is as a tool of engagement. That made me start thinking about how cool it would be if we could use games to engage the public to learn about their rights and the law in a way that would help them prevent legal needs before they occur.
I starting researching the use of games for social good. Yes. There is a small segment of the game industry that develops games that will have an impact on society. It’s not all about first person shooters and role playing games. There is even a Games for Change Festival that showcases these games and those who work to create them. I read Jane McGonigal’s book Reality is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better nad How They Can Change the World. Watch her impressive TED talk video if you don’t have time to read the book.
What has been done so far surrounding legal services is focused more on educating school children on the legal process or it is geared towards law students. There are a few others that are focused on educating the public, but they tend to be heavily text-based, and frankly, I got pretty bored playing them.
Here is an example of a game for social good. In March, a game called Half the Sky Movement was launched as a Facebook game to help end world hunger. The game play is a compelling story about empowering women, and allows the user to donate to a variety of causes as he or she plays through. The game allows the user to unlock free rewards. For example, one of these might be that a real world book would be mailed to a girl in India from a foundation which donated to the nonprofit, Room to Read Foundation. While learning about a social situation, the player is rewarded by connecting with real-world individuals. There is a sharing component and multiple layers of engagement throughout the game.
This, and games like it, inspired me to think that what we really need for legal services is increased ENGAGEMENT – before a legal need arises. That is exactly what games provide when they are done right. The game we are creating isn’t going to be an iCivics or any courtroom-based legal education game. It isn’t going to be preachy or overly full of text. It is going to be a game you would want to play and it will have an unique connection between the legal services marketplace and the players. That’s teasing. I’ll reveal more as I go along.
I’ve started building my team around my central game idea, and I’ve found the game designer who can help me make this game the way that I envision it. She has a background in UX/UI design. I am also building out a development team and graphic artist. The business plan is roughly in place. Going to take this to Kickstarter – another first I think for something law-related. I’m not giving up the writing, speaking, consulting or teaching either. Just giving up more sleep. Been there, done that. Totally ready to do it again.
I have no doubt there will be skeptics. There were plenty of those when I did the virtual law office launch back in 2006. I’m going to ignore them this time too. At least now I know I have some strong supporters who get what I am trying to do and why it is important. I’ve been blessed with some wonderful people, lawyers who game themselves, who have already brainstormed ideas with me and have promised to support me in making this happen. Hopefully bootstrapping will not be as difficult the second time around!
Most startups are told to keep their progress confidential, but I’ve never been a fan of that philosophy. Sharing gets us all further along. Someone with connections and money is always waiting at a launch to take your idea and make it faster and better. But if the end product is intended to serve the public, then bring on the competition! It will only push forward the development of games for the legal industry.
Soon I’ll start sharing more details, including some of my early game ideas and why it is particularly difficult to translate legal concepts into game play. Even if you are not interested in games, it should be interesting to read about the process of breaking down legal subject matters into goals, decisions, outcomes, etc. and putting the concepts into layman’s terms.
As always, I’m grateful for any feedback on my ideas. I also have a Facebook group for lawyers who game (whether it’s tabletop, console, PC, or otherwise) so anyone who is interested in joining us, just let me know.