Interaction is a necessity for charities. Getting an audience to listen to everything we want them to hear can be difficult; getting them to respond is even harder. There is one medium that not only excels at getting a response, but depends on it - games.
It’s impossible to play a game without interacting with it. So how can charities use this to their benefit? Here are a few that have tried:
Raise the Village
With over 84 million users, one of the most widely played games in recent years is the Facebook game Farmville, a game where you create and maintain a virtual farm. When New Charity Era saw this success they also saw the potential for social good, and created a game for the iPhone called ‘Raise the Village’.
The key differences between the two games are that: in ‘Raise the Village’ you control a whole village and, more importantly, when you make a purchase in ‘Raise the Village’ the entire profits don’t go to the game developers. Instead, a portion also gets donated to a village in Uganda. So by buying a virtual tent for your virtual village, you are also helping to purchase a real tent for an actual village.
Games on Facebook have been becoming increasingly popular since Farmville proved that it was a platform where millions of people would sit down and play. There are new games created for it every day so it’s not surprising that some are for social good. One of the most interesting of these is Trash Tycoon, a game which centres around upcycling, turning useless old junk into something new and useful. At the beginning of the game you have net to nothing but by effectively upcycling you can gain money, points and build your way up to being a trash tycoon. The game uses it’s gameplay to teach about the values of recycling but Trash Tycoon does more than just raising awareness, 10% of all in-game purchases gets donated to CarbonFund.org, a non-profit organisation fighting climate change.
Greenpeace - Duke Anti-Nuke
There are a plethora of games on the Greenpeace website, and even before playing, you can tell that a lot of thought has gone into them. Each game is distinct from one another and they have all been created for a specific cause. The best of these is ‘Duke Anti-Nuke’.
Greenpeace seized on the media hype surrounding the eventual release of the blockbuster game ‘Duke Nukem Forever’, to create their own game condemning nuclear power. By combining the gameplay sensibilities of the classic Mega Man series with a healthy amount of collectible facts, ‘Duke Anti-Nuke’ is both informative and fun.
Oxfam - Climate Change Quiz
In games, there are a lot of ways you can deliver information to a player. You can use dialogue, cut-scenes, collectibles and other techniques. One of the most blatant but perhaps least interesting ways is through a quiz. Oxfam have used this method on more than one occasion and have even found a way to make their quizzes more engaging, by adding in video. All of Oxfam’s quizzes feature celebrities who will read out your answers to the questions. Making David Tennant look a fool for not knowing how fast the arctic ice caps are melting is a great way of making you remember the correct answers.
Christian Aid - Citizenship
Christian Aid’s kids game, ‘Citizenship’, attempts to teach children the importance of diversity, multi-culturalism and teamwork through a series of mini-games in which each character has their own specialist skill. What makes Citizenship stand out is that it never appears to be advertising a charity, and the only indication that it is actually made by Christian Aid is the call to action when you complete the game.
Computer game developers ‘Virtual Heroes’ have proved that games have a future in social good. By using modified versions of the Unreal Engines they have created four games so far: two teaching medical training, one space simulation game and Pamoja Mtaani, a game created to raise awareness of HIV in Kenya. Since 2008, Pamoja Mtaani has been distributed across schools in Kenya to help teach kids about how to react to situations and life choices where they may be at risk of HIV.
These campaigns show the variety and usefulness of games. They appeal to different audiences and serve many different purposes. They’re used to raise donations, to tell people about your cause and even to teach them important skills.
Currently games in charities are in their embryonic stages and few organisations have yet seen the potential, but with the ever increasing popularity of games, it’s almost certain that they will become a major part in every charity’s plans.