Finding the Future

In less than 48 days, five hundred people will stay overnight in New York Public Library to write a book together. In doing so, they will find history, make history, and make the future.

You can be one of them.

Jane McGonigal… a consistently upbeat and positive woman whose name more and more often seems to start with the title of “Visionary” or “Futurist”… heads up the Find the Future game taking place at New York Public Library beginning at 8pm on May 20th and ending at 6am the next morning. This live-action ARG (alternate reality game) is designed to guide the players to discover and empower their own future as they seek out and explore the meanings of 100 extraordinary items in the esteemed “People’s Palace,” playing in teams and armed with laptops and smartphones. Exposed to these seminal and powerful items in the library collection, the players will write and draw and create, with the finished work taking its place on the shelves of NYPL for all time. The game is part of the library’s weekend-long Centennial celebration of the library’s iconic Stephen A. Schwarzman Building.

Ultimately, McGonigal says that “Like every game I make, it has one goal: to turn players into superempowered, hopeful individuals with real skills and ideas to help them change the world.” She asked us to envision a World Without Oil (“Play it before you live it”), Cryptozoo, and EVOKE, a game that put people’s desire to find a meaningful way to make a difference into action to change the world for the better. She expressly hopes that the “Write All Night” event will spark changes in its players as well as bring attention to the power and importance of libraries and their collections.

Would that I could be in New York in May. I must wait to visit virtually, to play the game starting May 21st when it becomes available to anyone with Internet access. It won’t be the same as being able to explore 70 miles of stacks in person, but it will have to do.

The first step… the first quest you must fulfill in hopes of joining this band of heroes… is to forecast your own future by completing this sentence: “By the year 2021, I will become the first person to…” If you want inspiration, check out the rising flood of answers already being dreamed and pledged.

Do you want to go? Do you want to put this idea into the hands of the teen whose visions shine from her eyes every time she checks out another book from your shelves? Do you want to mention it to your mentor, your mentee, your volunteer, your co-worker, your son who plays video games and wishes the world could offer him half the challenge he finds in the pixelated landscapes on his monitor? Honestly, just thinking of how one might seriously answer the question … the very first quest-ion … can make your imagination stir to life and water the garden where hope for something more might take root.

I think “visionary” is a title Jane McGonigal will have to share — and I feel certain she will do so with delight.

Game on.



  1. Denise says:

    What a cool idea, I’m sorry to hear that you can’t be there


  1. […] April 2nd, I wrote about Jane McGonigal’s partnership with New York Public Library to “Find The Future.” That excursion takes place this evening — right now, as I write, it begins! — […]

  2. […] It is very interesting to read the article Finding the Future by Danforth, L. (2011) ‚Äì a great example related to the participatory service: […]