Tag, You’re It!

12 Oct

The last five years or so have seen an increase in crowd-sourcing (from places like Kickstarter and IndieGoGo) and crowd-source gaming (like Improv Anywhere or city-wide scavenger hunts, like those sponsored by SVNGR). Today I received a tweet from KindnessGirl in Richmond for Tag, You’re It!

It’s a different kind of tag, and it’s a part of crowd-source gaming that seeks not only to involve a community, but to involve a community in something good – in this case, in committing acts of kindness. The game works like this: you find a “kindness tag,” and you are IT. You then have to perform an act of kindness and then leave the tag to “tag” someone else. It then passes on.

Tag, You’re It! is a game that’s participating in what Jane McGonigal calls “happiness engineering” – a way to make ourselves and our society happier. Performing acts of kindness and receiving them make us feel happier – therefore, Tag, You’re It! is helping us to “engineer” a little more happiness into our community… both short term and, hopefully, long term.

This kind of game is a form of guerrilla leadership (I’m not sure if that’s actually a leadership term, but I’m going to use it as one) in which leadership is being enacted (in this case, by the mechanics of the game) on individuals mostly without their awareness. They’re playing a game, but in the process of interacting with its mechanics – performing an act of kindness, in this case – they’re transmitting a transformative ideology (of kindness).

The aim of these games is dual: first, to cause people to “engineer happiness,” and, second, to cause people to transform their lives long-term to be a little (or a lot) kinder to the people around them. The ultimate aim of a game like Tag, You’re It! is to make people want to continue the mechanic (a random act of kindness) even outside of the scope of gameplay. By making it a part of a game, that mechanic (the act of kindness) becomes autotelic – fun for its own sake. And once the mechanic becomes fun, then it no longer needs the framework of the game (or such is the hope) in order to remain a positive influence on the life of the player.