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The mission of Games for Change, a nonprofit organization founded in 2004, is “catalyzing social impact through digital games.” The organization curates digital and non-digital games and serves to facilitate “creation and distribution of social impact games that serve as critical tools in humanitarian and educational efforts.”
What is a social impact game?
A social impact game is designed to educated players on real-world problems, such as war, hunger and other humanitarian crises. Through the game, players learn about real issues, and are challenged to solve problems. Many social impact games are partnerships between game developers and existing charities and humanitarian causes, and through the game, players are able to have a real-world impact.
Social impact of these games is two-fold: First, many games give revenue to charities and social impact causes. If a player makes a purchase while playing a Facebook game, for example, portions of that might be donated to a designated charity. Secondly, with social games, players invite their friends to play as well. For or social change, individuals must serve to spread the word about real-world problems and causes working to solve those problems.
Social games (played on Facebook) like Food Force and WeTopia, are two examples of social impact games, as they are designed to inspire action and real-world impact.
Food Force is considered the first humanitarian video game. Released in 2005 by World Food Programme, the game is an effort to teach children about real-world hunger and the challenges of delivering food aid in a humanitarian crisis. In the game, set on a fictitious island suffering through drought and war, players are challenged to complete virtual missions reflecting real-life obstacles faced by the World Food Programme in emergency responses to crises such as the tsunami and another hunger crises.
In WeTopia, players connect with their friends to create a virtual city and spend “Joy,” the game’s currency that spreads real-world aid to non-profits around the world. Players build a civilization from scratch and are challenged to develop a thriving population and economic system. Players can choose which social campaigns receive their “Joy,” and Sojo Studios, the creators of WeTopia, shares revenue with those causes and campaigns.
The core principles of Sojo Studios include optimism, collaboration, sustainability, real-world impact, innovation and responsibility.
Our mission is to provide joyful and easily accessible ways for people to join with others to do lasting social good. We believe that the best aspects of team play in the virtual world – fun, aspiration and collaboration – can be applied to positively, meaningfully and visibly affect the real world. – Sojo Studios
What are some other social impact games?
The following social impact games were nominated for 2012 Games for Change Awards:
The End – a self-discovery game exploring commonly and less commonly held views about death.
Family of Heroes — a role-playing game where families of returning veterans learn to manage common challenges in adjusting to post-deployment life.
SPENT — challenges players to make it through a month with little money and tough decisions.
WAY — online collaborative game in which anonymous strangers around the world learn to communicate through puppetry.
Zamzee – a game powered by the player’s movement. Activity fuels the gamer’s online experience.
Unmanned – a more realistic “war” game in which the players are able to get inside the head of a modern soldier and deals with issues like trauma-induced dreams, interpersonal relationships and other military duties.
Fibber – A Game About Political Deception – a political game in which players are asked to determine whether things said by Obama or Romney are a fib and share their findings.
Nanu Planet — a game about a divided planet.
Check out this video about how Games for Change is changing the world from Reuters:
Games for Change Festival
June 18-20, Games for Change will host the 9th annual Games for Change Festival in New York City. It is the largest gaming event held in New York City, bringing together leaders from government and corporate America, civil society, media, academia and gaming to explore the real-world impact digital games can have as an impact for social change.
The festival includes educational sessions on development, design and tools for digital games, psychology of gaming, and much more.
Time is running out to register for the Games for Change Festival. Click here to register now.
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Written by Melody Harstine
I'm a freelance writer with a penchant for Pugs and a portfolio of articles from tech to beauty and beyond. A communicator at heart, my true passion is covering issues promoting positive change in our world. Connect with me on Google+, Twitter, LinkedIn, or at melodyharstine.com.