We #FaceTheFuture together

Throughout this record breaking game we had students playing together in their classrooms all over the world. Below are a collection of photos showcasing how we’ve spent that last 30 hours facing the future together. But first, a tweet from a player giving the scenario three thumbs up for being the most intriguing and impactful video she has ever seen!

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Twitter user @payneStevens tweeted ".@woodlansrams Geno Ss had a fierce competition over points as they debated the impact of FeelThat #FaceTheFuture #woods

 

Twitter handle @FacingCanada Tweeted "Does anyone have 10k points yet?" competition ramps up in @mis_durury's world issues class! #FacetheFuture. Image of three boys on computers playing the game

 

twitter user @FacingMemphis tweeted "thank you, student leaders, for a successful #FaceTheFuture Launch!" image of 13 students wearing branded game t-shirts

 

 

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twitter user @Elainegn27 tweeted, if we could feel each other's emotions, how would that affect the #election2028? #FacetheFuture @facinghistory @avantgame. picture of Jane McGonigal giving game opening speech

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Having so many young people engage critically about empathy, the future, and their role in shaping a world they want opens up endless possibilities for our society, and helps ensure we don’t repeat our mistakes from the past.

For more scenes of live gameplay and other conversations about the game, check out #FacetheFuture on twitter!

Remembering the Future: Predicting the Present 

Guest post by Daniel Braunfeld, Senior Program Associate for Special Projects at Facing History and Ourselves

I spent the day in 2026 with over eight thousand friends — students, teachers, and neighbors. We all walked around connected via the FeelThat network – a new technology that allowed us to experience each other’s feelings.  Some people were comfortable with this new power and others were hesitant, even scared; some people were unsure of how to proceed.

Sometimes, the experience of feeling someone’s emotions was too much to handle — it was depressing to feel such pain and it was better to turn it off.

Sometimes, the experience raised questions — is someone spying on us?  Will the government treat us differently? Can we prevent war? How are we creating a more just society?

And sometimes, the future was exciting as we challenged stereotypes, broke down barriers, truly listened, exercised our emotional strength and built bridges.

But my favorite part of my time in 2026 was the impact it had when I returned to 2016. I was motivated to make different choices. I put down my computer to introduce myself to strangers. I asked them questions and listened to their stories, rather than focusing on what I wanted to say. I called my family, who is currently far away, just so I could see their faces. I walked the street looking up, rather than staring down at a screen, because people’s emotions are on their face, in their eyes, and on their tongues — but never on the ground.

For 30 hours I asked myself, “what action could I take TODAY to help make this future MORE likely?” and I was reminded that the choices I make can make a difference.

ACT: Listen to learn. Connect with neighbors. Be present. Be an upstander. In response to: What Action could someone take TODAY to help make this future MORE likely?

So I have set my empathy to public. I might shut it off, at times, when I need to turn my attention inward. I might seek your partnership when I have experiences that I will best process with a community. And I am committed to receiving your experiences in a way that makes you feel heard, feel supported, and feel whole. The future of empathy begins today.

 

The final countdown: 30 minutes to go!

Time sure does fly when you’re having fun. Your incredible (and numerous) posts have continued to overwhelm both the game guides and the servers behind the site – in the very best of ways! All of your vivid futures have slowed down the site a bit but that hasn’t deterred you wonderful players, has it? Just in the past 7 hours (Round 3 of gameplay), you’ve added 25,100 futures. Thats more than any other game has gotten in 30 hours! Wow! And that’s on top of the other 62,672 cards that were played in rounds 1 and 2.

Game stats: 25100 futures imagined by 8919 players; 25 minutes to go

We know you saved your best, most creative, most future-facing ideas for last. Add them before the clock runs out at 9pm PT/12am ET!

Love, Love, may you be filled with Love

I’m not going to try and define love in this post.  That is a fool’s errand.  It’s all I can do to keep myself from cramming it full of more song title references than is reasonable.  But love is definitely on the minds of our players in Face the Future.

There is the perennial teen concern: unrequited love.  What happens when you love someone and they’re uninterested?  Could the feeling of your love ever change their mind?

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Of course, there was also some concern over the privacy and rights of expressing oneself to a crush, that prompted some really interesting discussion of permissions for sending and receiving feels.

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Could the feeling of love make you brave and ready to love again after a long time of hurting? Sock Monkey muses that this could indeed happen over FeelThat.

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There is also a Buddhist theme of love and compassion running through a number of cards (See #compassion).  Loving kindness as a practice that in the future could be more than just contemplative. You could overwrite your emotions towards difficult people with love.

Screen Shot 2016-11-14 at 7.39.38 PMOn the other hand this robust cluster from Player Catherine Miranda Zue started a fascinating discussion of moderating really intense emotions so they could be “safe” for others.  A few people mentioned love in passing in this cluster, but it got me thinking. If iconic teen lovers Romeo and Juliet could have taken it down a notch, might it have saved their lives?

Early on in the game there was some concern that some emotions on the FeelThat network could be too explicit. They might compromise the “innocence” of young users.  My IFTF colleague Lyn Jeffery did a nice roundup of these concerns.

But these cards also reminded me of a vlog from John Green, Fault in Our Stars author who has faced censorship from school districts over that book and his debut novel, Looking for Alaska.

“I Am Not a Pornographer” is a beautiful and entertaining rant, but the takeaway is that love and intimacy and sex are all very different things.  Especially when we’re young and exploring our sexuality, comfort with boundaries, and emotional compatibility, love/intimacy/sex are not only different and often excruciatingly awkward.  Emotional intimacy is the least awkward (specifically in Looking for Alaska), because it is the most elastic towhat the people involved are actually comfortable with.  While we as a society may rightly judge some too young for sex, who are we to interfere with “pure” emotional intimacy among the teenagers of 2026?

If you were in love and had the FeelThat network, what would you want to share with your beloved?

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A weapon of war, a tool for peace

This game has brought up a lot of speculation about the future of war and peace. Would being able to know what someone else is feeling create peace, or war?

FeelThat technology, like all technology, is agnostic. It is neither good or bad. The FeelThis network can both be a weapon of war and a tool for peace, it all depends on what we choose to do with it.

On the one hand, as Beth Lee notes, increasing empathy towards a soldier’s experience in war might lower our appetite to support war, making it hard for governments to send soldiers abroad in war.

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It’s also possible that, as Nicola Henning suggests, FeelThat would make it easier to prevent bad actors from committing crime or acts of war preemptively if we develop a capacity to understand the emotional trajectory someone goes through while planning an attack. Predictive policing initiatives are already experimenting with this new human capability, to much controversy around privacy, liberty, and accuracy.

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On the other hand, FeelThat could be a weapon of war. As Gina A mentioned it may become a tool for more effective propaganda by terrorist groups, growing their support networks and enticing more fighters to join their cause.

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And the mere existence of FeelThat could be so controversial that it divides our society into two camps, as veheliha suggests, with people wanting it destroyed fighting on one side against those who want to keep it.

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One thing is for sure however, the way we engage in war will change with the advent of FeelThat. This technology would have the power to transition modern warfare from the decentralized guerrilla wars and cyber wars of today to emotional hacking and mental torture of the future. This may limit physical casualties and cyber attacks shifting to a quieter, less obvious emotional warfare. The long-term impacts of this sort of transition would be near impossible to predict. What if you wipe out an entire nation with sever PTSD?

We’d might also enter an entirely new era in human history, possibly uncovering the true motivations behind war. A well known theory within the conflict resolution field is that conflict is caused by creed (identity), greed (hunt for excess land and wealth), and need. And the intersection between all three make it exceptionally complex to tease apart a conflict and find resolution. But in a FeelThat world we would create an entirely new chapter in the human experience as we’d build quantifiable and objective information explaining the emotions and true motivations behind individual and collective perpetrators. Once we know exactly why people enter into war, does that mean we can guide them into a different direction? 

Technology to Torture

Guest post by Deb Chad, Director for Program Technology at Facing History and Ourselves.

History is littered with stories of torture. Deliberate acts of inflicting pain on a person to compel action captures our imagination, evokes empathy, and impassions our beliefs. We study the torture devices of the Middle ages, the outcomes of the witch trials in Colonial Massachusetts, and countless other torture by individuals, groups, and states. Our studies reflect not only the events, but also the human behavior associated with them. Today, there is even a museum in Amsterdam dedicated to looking at torture throughout history.

More current conversations around torture have focused on what types of torture is warranted with the urgency of terrorism. According to a spring 2015 Pew Research Center survey of 38 nations, public opinion around the world is divided about whether government-sponsored torture can ever be justified as part of efforts to prevent terrorist attacks.

Face the Future discussions have focused on the power technology can have on increasing empathy through the sharing of emotions. However, many posts also worry about the misuse of this technology. Using the sharing of difficult emotions as a tool for torture has many of us worried.

Shadow imagination card: "I feel like this could be used as a new torture mechanism or a way to cause people harm"

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Shadow imagination card: "People could use it as a form or torture in a way."

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Physiological torture has long gone hand and hand with physical torture. Sharing of emotions allowed through FeelThat technology holds the potential for sharing the worst feelings of humanity with unknown consequences.

Shadow imagination card: "The stress of feeling multiple emotions at once could be very overloading for one person. We were not meant to take on that stress. #woods"

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Trust in who has this technology and how it is used is essential. This tweet reminds us that torture is just not about the physical, or emotional actions, but about the lasting outcomes.

Tweet by Cheryl Payne (@PayneStevens): .@facinghistory What if govt's used FeelThat to torture its ppl? Could it manipulate them to create We & They? #woods  #FaceTheFuture

According to Human Rights Watch, “The prohibition of torture is a bedrock principle of international law.” What new laws, jobs, and checks and balances would we need for this new technology to ensure responsible use even in the most dire of circumstances?

 

Emotion Hacking

All too often, technologies that provide unprecedented capacity for good bring about equally unprecedented capacity for abuse and manipulation. This will be especially true for a networked commons of emotion.

To start, bullies or criminals may gain unwelcome access to their victims’ private emotional information to exploit their weaknesses, and even take over machines to inflict physical or emotional pain.

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The potential for manipulation doesn’t just exist among rogue criminal hackers. Corrupt or aggressive state actors may mobilize resources at even greater scale to conduct surveillance, drum up political support, or initiate emotional warfare.

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To counter these effects, we will explore new means of storing sensitive personal information and providing permissioned access to trusted entities.

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In the face of these threats, we may need to come together across borders to agree on unacceptable forms of manipulation and hacking. This is not without precedent; the Geneva Protocols banned chemical and biological weapon use back in the 1920s. A similar approach may be difficult in an anonymized digital world, but this could form the basis of standards for international intervention once attacks are discovered. IFTF has explored similar potential in a Magna Cortica: an international or national document stating rights and responsibilities of cognitive enhancement.

Hacking isn’t always bad, though. We may see innovation around these products and systems as people use or break them in unexpected ways. New artistic pieces, health-boosting applications, and novel social networks could emerge from permission-less grassroots efforts.

How might we protect ourselves from attacks while maximizing ethical and positive development?

Art, Museums, and Sharing Feelings in Public

Much of our conversation about the FeelThat network has focused on private experiences: sitting around feeling this and that with your friends, being alone but connected to another, or private moments shared with students/soldiers/refugees on the other side of the world.

But how FeelThat figures into public experiences is a whole other question.  Player Olivia Martin tapped into this possibility and set off a flurry of builds:

Bubble graph representing conversation sparked by player Olivia Martin's positive imagination card "Art is certainly an emotional experience. What if at art museums you could tap in to how others felt while viewing the exhibits? #hiesglobal"

How true! Art is an emotional experience, and museums are a place to have these emotional experiences is a public (but safe) place.  Have you ever cried in a museum? I know I have.  And not just at the Holocaust Museum, either.  I went to the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam a few years back. Even though Wheatfield with Crows (1890) was never my favorite painting visually, standing before it I felt the pain he was in those last few months before he committed suicide.  It was stunning! A small group of us stood before it and wept.

Wheatfield with Crows at Van Gogh Museum

How much more profound would it have been, not just for that painting but for all of his others, to feel echoes of others’ reactions while viewing Vincent’s art?

TonyG and Mr Mike Johnson leapt to the same conclusion, and took it a step further.Two "predict" cards. First card by player Tony G: "A whole new kind of art - seeing something and then feeling what others have felt seeing it before. #3107empathy" Second card by player Mr. Mike Johnson "Or even know what the artist what feeling while creating it!"

In an even more modern vein, I’ve long struggled to experience and then explain why Modern Art buffs love Rothko and Pollack. While their styles could not possibly be more different, they are often hung facing each other.  Curators have explained to me why: they both capture emotional states.  That’s the heart of Abstract Expressionism: capturing a feeling with pure technique.  Rothko does it with color.  Pollack with motion.

Player Kelly V. took this to a beautifully futuristic extreme: what if the artists of 2026 were sculptors in pure emotion, and how that intersected with visual focus and even movement!

Positive imagination card by player Kelly V.: "Artists would "paint" and "sculpt" with emotion, changing how you feel as you look at diff parts of an image or move through space."

What an absolutely beautiful card.  Well played!  Face the Future community: where else do you think feeling in public together could help us shape the future? What dangers might it present?

On Imagining a New Self (& Breaking Free of Stereotypes)

Guest post by Hearts on Fire, an organization that focuses on showcasing some of the most inspirational and committed individuals working to change the world for the better. It was launched following the release of the nonfiction book Hearts on Fire: Stories of Today’s Visionaries Igniting Idealism into Action by Jill Iscol, Ed.D and Peter Cookson.

During gameplay, killin.tang proposed how the FeelThat network could help men express their feelings and push back against the standard definition of masculinity, one with a cold and stoic demeanor.

POSITIVE IMAGINATION: Men can have a way to express their feelings, and it will break down the barriers of men bring a cold stone warrior without emotions. #as132

This insight highlights the rigidity of gender norms in our society. What identities do you possess that might influence how others see you? How does that affect the way you present yourself to the world? It is well-documented that our behavior and choices are often rooted in how we believe others perceive us.

By thinking more critically about our own identities as well as others’, and the way they influence perceptions and behaviors, we can begin to apply empathy and Face the Future together. We can share our stories to light a spark of good in the world and make a difference in the lives of others who might be facing similar challenges.

We hope the Hearts on Fire Teachers Guide (developed in partnership with Facing History and Ourselves) will help students explore their own stories and identities and ignite them to take that first step in their journey to making the world a better place for all.

Social Studies and Emotional Citizenship

Guest post by Brandon Haas, a professor of social studies education at Plymouth State University and facilitator of Holocaust and Human Behavior for Facing History and Ourselves.

Face the Future puts us in a world where we can tap into the emotions of others. The game provides ample opportunity in the realm of education. We are playing the game with pre-service social studies teachers who are investigating this in two ways. First as a way to investigate global and social issues, while fostering the level of critical thinking associated with imagining these futures. Critical thinking surrounding some of the futures has led to rich discussion of morals and ethical questions, as well as how this may affect many of the issues currently faced by society as a result of feeling the “other,” something that could have major implications in our current social climate.

It also brings up a regular question of our reliance on technology as a means of escape. Would addiction to feeling become an issue?

#FeelThatShadow Card played on Twitter: People may get addicted to feeling certain ways and not be able to function with just their own feelings.

In social studies education, we often promote the discussion of controversial issues in the classroom. The questions raised in Face the Future suggest that this could lead to some controversial issues related to law (as shown below), addiction, and privacy.

ACT Card: Make important decision makers unbiased by making them disconnect for deliberation. Like for juries so they only look at the facts. In response to SHADOW IMAGINATION: Would a jury be more likely to make an emotional decision rather than a rational one?

Students have much to gain from a thorough investigation of controversial issues and the development of empathy is often a goal of such learning activities, especially when discussing these issues through the use of individual’s experience or testimony. When we learn about the Holocaust or other acts of genocide, would survivors want to share those feelings with students and teachers? Would it be appropriate to do so? I wonder if this would help to make “Never Again” a reality if people were able to truly understand what others feel. By adding in the layer of feeling what others can feel brings issues of othering, prejudice, and bigotry to the forefront in a way that could effect real change. There are also questions that arise as a result of FeelThat entering the classroom.

Would this lead to a new type of learning? How do we be mindful of our emotions and scaffold learning emotional citizenship. Much like we have to teach our students how to successfully and responsibly navigate the internet, we’d have to create a new framework for moral and ethical behavior as it relates to emotion. Would we have to determine how to teach students when it is responsible to share emotion? Emotions have always been such a private part of our lives that allowing them to enter the public sphere is difficult to truly conceive of. How do we avoid trivializing the feelings of others when we can experience it first hand, as 9th Grade Team asked?

SHADOW IMAGINATION card played on Twitter: What if you get made fun of for having certain emotion or feeling #FacetheFuture #FHNTCLE #Shadowimagination

What age does it become appropriate and responsible to factor this into curriculum? Would legislation regulate its use? By integrating FeelThat into our daily lives, it becomes crucial to factor in social-emotional learning, as well as moral, and character education. These are facets of education that are already central to social studies and with a new platform such as this, the need for a greater focus becomes clear.