Geospatial data and video games project

I’m launching a company called Machines & Dreamland. We’re developing a platform that integrates earth data with video games in the cloud.

The vision is to create a positive feedback loop between games and the health of our planet. The more the planet heals, the more fun the games become. The more fun games become, the more funding they generate to support the climate action partners who generate the data that’s fed back into the games. More info here:

http://machinesanddreamland.com/WIL/

I currently have a couple stealth partners with backgrounds at Amazon, Microsoft, and the Gates Foundation. We’ve applied for a number of grants we’re waiting to hear about, and have been accepted into the ESRI Startup program. Azure and GPT-3 are very much at the core of our development strategy.

I’m looking to connect with people who have experience with the following kinds of data/platforms:

GIS
IoT
LiDAR
Unity/Unreal/other game engines
Azure

More broadly, I’d be interested in hearing of any projects that involve AI and geospatial data. Thanks in advance for any feedback!

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The video game industry is ludicrously competitive. I’m not really sure I believe that it’s possible to extract enough revenue from games. It also seems like your business model might be upside down. Data is the valuable commodity that you could sell in order to fund climate change.

Do you or any of your partners have any experience with making games? It’s a nontrivial project in itself, let alone grafting on all this innovation. From my knowledge of human behavior and economics, I can say that “this game is good for climate change” is not a powerful enough attractant for players. Also, the healing of the earth is something that will take decades. You’re not going to keep people’s attention that long to earn unlockables.

I’m sorry for my skepticism but this looks like a fantasy. Do you have any investors? Has anyone committed any concrete resources to this project?

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I appreciate this feedback, sincerely. I’ve had some of the same doubts myself. I welcome your scepticism.

One of the important issues you raised is what I call the temporal problem. Some of the data we use to measure the health of our planet does indeed take years or decades to accumulate or mean anything. Engagement with a game can mean a few minutes for a mobile game or a few months for a big AAA game. So it’s about syncing the rate that earth data changes with gameplay loops. The good news is that there is a lot of earth data that changes a lot, from electrical pulses in mycellium networks to the number of tons of trash collected in a weekend beach clean-up project.

I’m early in developing this platform, and just this week filed articles incorporation so we can start raising money. ESRI is the first organization to offer concrete support. I’ve spent the past year and a half consulting with people who know a lot more than I do about various aspects of this vision, and have been encouraged by the feedback. I’ve talked to people at Microsoft, Ubisoft, Unity, Amazon, the UN Environmental Programme, the IGDA Climate SIG, Ustwo Games, Flash Forest, the Surfrider Foundation, land trusts, independent game developers, AAA game developers, IoT device manufacturers, computer science professors, and basically anyone who will listen. You’re the first person to call this idea a fantasy.

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Well, you’re far from the first person to propose a video game with strictly altruistic motives. Even the idea of incorporating big data is nothing new. For the most part it’s limited to the realm of academics as there’s really no profitability in it. Game studios have a hard enough time operating when profit is their primary motive. But you’re planning on shunting off as much revenue as possible to climate change. I don’t see how you’ll remain solvent. This kind of thing never works out in my experience. The best you can hope for is a few good scientific papers and maybe a few games that will limp along.

It’s important to keep in mind the meta narrative going on right now. You say GPT-3 and a lot of investors will start salavating but remember that they know that 9 out of 10 ventures fail. This is called a blue ocean condition where there’s just so much exploration and a lot of FOMO.

Your business prop basically comes down to microtransactions to save the planet. Noble, yes. But also probably futile. Plenty of game studios and other entities put on promotional sales that go towards climate change and other causes.

But, as I said, you’re not paying attention to your most valuable commodity, which is user data and in fact you plan on buying data from others. There’s a rule of thumb when it comes to innovation: you can innovate one thing at a time. New tech, old business model. Old business model, new tech. You’re trying to innovate everything at once, and that never works.

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Thanks again for the feedback. I totally disagree. Good luck with your ventures!

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If I had the right skill set I’d work with you for sure. Extremely cool idea. Even if it hasn’t worked before, as others have cautioned, you could be the one to make it work. I suspect there is a large demographic of potential players - perhaps people who haven’t played games before. My only thought was to pay attention to the carbon footprint of your business, so your audience knows that you are sincere. I wish you the best.

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