A group of experts came together at the Aspect Fellowship Workshop (full video here), and talked about how tech innovation can spark social change. We are entering a new era of gaming where studios can integrate efforts for charity and social change directly into gameplay. Here are a few of the ideas from this workshop that your game can use to have an impact now:
1.) Make the Act of Giving Rewarding
We are entering a new era of gaming where players can be a part of charity efforts directly through gameplay, and this opens up a whole new level of experience for players. Let's check out an example of this and compare with a more traditional method of giving in the gaming industry:
When players buy games from Humble Bundle's website, a portion of the purchase price is given to various charities. What makes this tactic unique is that the player can choose how much they want to pay for a game bundle, and they can even choose exactly how much of each portion of their payment goes to, whether it is the gaming studio that made the game they are purchasing, the charity, or Humble Bundle. This is rewarding because it enables more players to have access to games they might not have otherwise due to cost, and it rewards players who are able to give more by giving them the option to choose where that funding goes.
This is a more traditional way for games to give back through point-of-sale funding and is a great model to use for most games. What this lacks is the in-game reward for the act of giving, as all philanthropic activity happens outside of the game experience itself.
Players in this musical MMO can explore beautiful sunny islands and attend live music events. As players progress in the game they can earn "rhythmic energy" to unlock in-game items, such as a skateboard, for their avatar; when they do so they are notified that a real skateboard has been donated to a child in need.
This is an excellent example of making the act of giving rewarding by integrating the philanthropic outcome directly into gameplay. This adds a human connection to the charity's cause and the player. I believe we will begin to see more innovation on weaving game story and real world issues as this new concept of giving through gaming develops.
Humble Bundle and Timbi World are just two examples of what is being done now through philanthropic gaming practices. If we can find more ways to intertwine entertainment and giving to be a rewarding part of the player experience during gameplay, this could have a more profound effect than a one-time donation through point-of-sale. Your game could end up being a shining example of how this can be done.
2.) Be Transparent with Funding
Players are no longer locked to game consoles, but can game in a realtime environment with people around the world. With that comes new opportunity to raise awareness for a cause. Let's step outside of the gaming industry and check out a great example of how this is being done now from somewhere you might not expect - the banking industry. Let's take a quick look why this matters from industry expert, Mayur Joshi:
Mayur P. Joshi
"What we are seeing in the increasing adoption of digital currencies for doing everything that we used to do before in the physical environment. This digitization is not only big in the finance and banking industries, but all other industries.
Boundaries between industries are also blurring, if you think of the banking industry like in 2007/2008 and the banking and fintech industry now, a whole lot of new players have entered the industry. A couple of years back I heard one of the Chief Executives of one of the large banks say they don’t worry about new fintech startups entering the banking industry, but what they worry about is if the large high tech firms enter the industry, and that is what we are seeing happen now with the Apples, Facebooks, and Googles of the world entering the banking industry which is a huge change."
Let's check out an example of one of those high tech firms (Alibaba) entering the banking space, and how they have been able to leverage technology to make their user experience one that fosters social change through using the Alipay AntForest app:
How games can take note:
Alipay's Ant Forest app component has planted millions of trees in areas that users choose using "green energy points". Users (players) earn points by logging environmentally conscious behaviors like riding a bike to work as opposed to walking . Alipay users can earn points based on how many of these green behaviors they log or track and use those points to plant different kinds of trees in real life. Users can even link accounts with their friends and pool points to fund larger planting projects - pretty cool!
"This sort of technology is continuing to innovate in the fintech space and also people can get more financially educated, it's something they don't teach in school and something they certainly should considering how much you need it for the rest of your life, this sort of knowledge. The last ten years of finech space has been the most innovative, forward thinking and rapidly changing the industry has ever seen for people. If it keeps going like this it can have a major effect on helping out on some of these global issues. "
"One of the key takaways I got from this [workshop] comes around to this visibility angle, that if you want people to donate then you need to sort of give them the visibility that what they know what the donations are going toward, they know that what they are doing is making a positive change and is actually sort of being used. Because I think you need to be able to motivate people to make these changes, [...] a key part of that and so is introducing the visibility that money is being spent in a transparent manner, whether it is through direct donation or other means."
3.) Plan for Sustainable Impact
Charity efforts can be viewed not just as a short-term efforts for change, but an important part of your business that compliments what you do over time. Investing in a long term strategy also has potential for the game studio's company to benefit from the intangible monetary asset of Goodwill,
which is the added value of a company’s brand name, solid customer base, good customer relations, good employee relations, and proprietary technology [2, 3].
For example: There are a lot of people in the world that will favor using something like Alipay over maybe a similar company like Paypal that (at the time of this article) does not have that gamified philanthropic connection with the regular use of their app. The fact that Alipay is known to empower players to have an impact on the environment in an enjoyable way is a form of goodwill that increases the value of the company.
"A lot of the interventions that I am seeing are very short term, they tackle an immediate problem but ultimately are just flushing money down the toilet because they are not really looking ahead toward what the bigger problems... [we] need(s) to be thinking not 2 years ahead or 3 years ahead, but 10 years ahead and making sure that there is sufficient resources to support the growth and development of those solutions."
"Transparency in the donation and philanthropic process. Including the faces of those who are benefitting from efforts is a powerful thing. That human connection is important, but so are the unglamorous aspects such as paying for PPE for a hospital in an area of need, for instance, or paying rent for a building to house social workers that are contributing to their cause."
integrate the right kind of charity for your game type
Another idea Jo mentioned during the workshop was how to integrate the right kind of charity for your game type. She used the example of a game that simulates being a doctor as an example, and choosing a charity that provides medical resources to areas of the world where healthcare is unavailable. You could potentially use any kind of charity, but finding one that compliments your particular type of game can be a real asset to long-term partnerships with charities. Players choose the kind of games they want to play based on their interests, so if the charity's cause is in the same area of interest as the game it could generate a better response from the player base.
Ricardo's Main Takeaway from the Aspect Fellowship Workshop:
"It is Encouraging to see that you can have an idea, put people together and maybe think about the hardest problem in the world, and they may not solve it in that particular time at that particular meeting, but they will advance ideas immensely. It will speed up what you can do on your own by miles"
There are so many great options for games to make an impact on the world - whether you choose a more traditional route such as using Humble Bundle or maybe a fundraising streaming event through Twitch, or if you want to be one of the innovative games that sets the standard for in-game philanthropic integration - the world can level up along with your players! It's a win-win.
1.) "Alipay Ant Forest: Using Digital Technologies to Scale up Climate Action | China." United Nations Climate Change, United Nations, 2019, unfccc.int/climate-action/momentum-for-change/planetary-health/alipay-ant-forest.
2.) Financial Accounting Standards Board. "Identifiable Intangible Assets and Subsequent Accounting for Goodwill." https://www.fasb.org/jsp/FASB/FASBContent_C/ProjectUpdateExpandPage&cid=1176171566054&pf=trueAccessed August 19, 2020.
3.) Hargrave, Marshall. "Goodwill." Investopedia, 20 Apr. 2021, www.investopedia.com/terms/g/goodwill.asp.