Does Your Moral Compass Need a Work-out?
How many times a day do you find yourself making moral decisions? I am guessing that, for most of us, the answer is not very many. Empire Avenue , on the other hand, challenges us to break several commandents: the ones about not taking the Lord’s name in vain (no shrieks of ‘OMG!’); remembering the sabbath day (most of us cheerfully play on a Sunday); not coveting thy neighbour’s ox, his ass (or his Empire Avenue score); not bearing false witness (how many of us routinely give Ks to people who don’t influence us at all?); and- perhaps most seriously- not stealing. (Not you, not me, but some people do simply take the money from missions without doing what is asked of them).
As you play the game, you will be posed a series of moral questions, not once but repeatedly:
- What are you prepared – and what are you not prepared – to do for money?
- Would you buy shares in someone just because they offered high dividends – in other words do you treat people as means to an end or an end in themselves?
- Will you be generous with your time and energy to help someone you know online?
- Are you your brother’s (or sister’s) keeper?
When you have played for a while, on a consistent basis, you will either have strengthened your will power to do good and resist evil, or you will truly know yourself as someone who all too readily gives in to temptation. Are you up for the challenge?
What is Empire Avenue?
Empire Avenue is a means of measuring one’s involvement in social media (twitter, facebook etc). It is also a game in which users buy and sell shares in people, using an imaginary currency. The first part of this blogpost, explaining about Empire Avenue for those who are not already signed up, was on Digidisciple on 5 June. The key is in ‘Expand, engage, evaluate’: you will not continue to expand unless you constantly evaluate what you are doing and engage with other people. Each progression involves increasing your interaction with others. At its most basic level, saying ‘thank-you’ and ‘well done’ to others, commenting on their blogs and doing their ‘missions’ will increase your overall score.
Only the most basic rules are given. It is rather like learning how to play chess simply by being told the moves of the various pieces. Did you read Richard Bach’s ‘Jonathan Livingston Seagull‘? He found there was no readily available set of rules, but that each apparent impasse contained its own way through. Empire Avenue is a game that nudges you to ‘fly’, that is to say make a leap of logic, imagination or faith which will take you to the next level. Here are some hints from our seagull mentor:
“Most gulls don’t bother to learn more than the simplest facts of flight – how to get from shore to food and back again…For most gulls it was not flying that matters, but eating. For this gull, though, it was not eating that mattered, but flight… Don’t believe what your eyes are telling you. All they show is limitation. Look with your understanding. Find out what you already know and you will see the way to fly.”
Metaphor for Life Itself
Empire Avenue reminds me, more than anything, of Chaucer’s ‘Canterbury Tales’. A motley group of people, who find themselves travelling together along the road of life, fall into conversation, form friendships and band together in small groups to talk and laugh and make music together. It is impossible to imagine assembling a more diverse range of people: young and old, tall and short, fat and thin; of all races and creeds; and living in every habitable part of the world.
EAv was set up less than two years ago. I imagine that its founders did not predict the way it would become a force for good in the world. It’s the old story about the total being greater than the sum of its parts. Although there are forums on Empire Avenue itself, most of the conversation about the way this hugely diverse network operates and can be used for good takes place on Facebook.
Just in the last month, I have become involved in dicussions about how to spread awareness of environmental problems, a bid to save whales, a planned and co-ordinated system of random acts of kindness, the dangerous side-effects of Diethylstilbestrol, and female genital mutilation and forced marriage. These are all concerns of people I know on Empire Avenue, and since they concern them, they concern me. It is personal involvement. Truly this is the global village at work in a way Marshall McLuhan could scarcely imagine.
The photograph below depicts the rehearsal of Geoffrey Chaucer’s ‘The Canterbury Tales’; downloaded from wikimedia under licence.