Develop 2010: ...and they are great for experimental business structures, claims Gobion Rowlands

Red Redemption: Socially aware games can be commercial

Speaking at today’s Develop Conference, Red Redemption’s chairman and CIO Gobion Rowlands argued that the socially proactive games that his company specialises in can both attract investors and commercial success, as well as allow developers to experiment with non-traditional business structures.

Red Redemption has created various socially and scientifically orientated titles – such as Fate of the World – that look at issues such as global warming. The Oxford studio describes its output as ‘social impact’ releases.

"A social impact game is a game that informs attitudes or behavior through persuasion and entertainment," explained Rowland, in a session titled ‘Shock to the System: Making Meaning and Money with Indie and Social Impact Games’.

"Our games are not serious games, and I hate that term. Our games are not serious, and serious games is just a term invented by the military."

"We wanted to prove that social impact games can be commercial," he later added, before revealing that Red Redemption has taken on board a member of staff in a studio of just 15 who is solely employed to undertake scientific research and data collection, making for a significant percentage of the overall headcount.

On the matter of his firm’s atypical structure and output, Rowlands suggested: "The advantage of being in this space is that you can experiment with the way things work, and even experiment with new ways of doing business".

Rowland went onto to offer advice on how small, socially aware developers can still attract funding, especially by forming relationship with investors with a personal interest in social issues.

"To get investment you also really need to understand why people want to play other people’s games," proposed Rowlands.

"To attract investors interest you need to do a really good five year plan, he added, later saying: "Try and grow their understanding of what you do and be utterly, utterly persistant."

"If you’re making social impact games, don’t be too literal, and don’t be preachy. Let people explore things for themselves," Rowland advised.

"I don’t want to watch documentaries any more; I want to play games with data," he concluded.

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