Superstruct: six weeks to save the world

Superstruct homepage

Play the game. Invent the future.

This is the tag line for the MMO forecasting game Superstruct, an alternative reality game set in the future, developed by a team at The Institute for the Future (IFTF). It’s a SF game, where SF has the original meaning of speculative fiction – crises are speculated upon by the game’s designers, and the objective is to speculate upon solutions to those crises in a collaborative manner.

The game launched on October 6 and will run for only 6 weeks. The IFTF, based in Palo Alto, California, is “an independent nonprofit research group.” Assisting organisations to prepare for the future is a major aspect of the work they do. The game draws on their knowledge and foresight to place crises in front of players, and to judge when players have made substantive leaps forward towards the game’s goals.

Superstruct is billed as “the thinking person’s MMO” – strictly, this means that people who get enjoyment out of thinking will enjoy and appreciate the game (there are no orcs to kill here). Nonetheless, it’s important not to be too off put by this description, because no one player is expected to present complete solutions alone, and because as we now know there’s more to intelligence than scoring high on IQ tests. Within the context of the game, people who are able to collaborate well, to get along well with other people, and to bring teams together, will also fare well.

Su`per`struct´ v. t. 1.To build over or upon another structure; to erect upon a foundation.

Humans have been superstructing for centuries. You could look at it as “standing on the shoulders of giants.” We build upon what our ancestors have done before us. In times of crisis and trouble, humans pull together and launch off from the failures and successes of our predecessors – hopefully this tendency, coupled with the power of our current technologies, will help us survive the super-threats facing us in the near future of Superstruct.


The super-threats are a comprehensive listing of specific crises the world is likely to face in game in the years following 2019.

  • Quarantine covers the global response to declining health and pandemic disease, including the current Respiratory Distress Syndrome (ReDS) crisis.
  • Ravenous focuses on the imminent collapse of the global food system, as well as debates over industrial vs. ecological agricultural models, and basic issues of access, energy, and carbon.
  • Power Struggle tracks the results of energy resource peaks and the shifts in international power as nations fight for energy supremacy and the world searches for alternative energy solutions.
  • Outlaw Planet embodies the volatile mix of new forms of surveillance, transparency, civil rights, and access to information as people work out new rules for human security.
  • Generation Exile follows the massive “diaspora of diasporas” underway globally, as the number of refugees and migrants skyrockets in the face of climate change, economic disruption, and war.

Keeping score

As the game is played out, three things are being tracked: how many people are playing the game, how many “survivability points” have been earned by players, and how many years are left before humans face extinction. The score is a combination of these three items – the higher the score, the longer the human race has left to live on this planet.

“Superstruct is played on forums, blogs, videos, wikis, and other familiar online spaces. We show you the world as it might look in 2019. You show us what it’s like to live there. Bring what you know and who you know, and we’ll all figure out how to make 2019 a world we want to live in.”


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