Social and mobile games are increasingly being used as low-cost marketing, and non-commercial organisations are also beginning to recognise their benefits.
Human rights organisation Amnesty International released an app last month to help preserve its financial independence, as well as make a political statement.
Bulletproof was developed by French studio Mobigame - creator of hit iOS game Edge that was the subject of a trademark dispute - to mark Amnesty’s 50th anniversary. The goal is to stop the bullets fired by a firing squad from shooting a man condemned to death.
“In the context of our 50th anniversary, we wanted to involve further a large audience in our fight so we created an interactive experience (on the web and mobile) to give the public an opportunity to act concretely. But we wanted something new, far away from the traditional fundraising ecosystem, perceived as complicated and procedural,” says Arnaud Humblot, account executive at Amnesty International France.
“The project was to use the App Store for the first time to raise funds by downloading Bulletproof for $0.99 (£0.59).”
The human rights body asked advertising agency La chose [‘The thing’], based in Paris, to find the right studio for the job, and it settled on Mobigame for two reasons.
“Our advertising agency La chose wanted two things to choose the studio: a strong involvement for our cause, including big financial efforts, and know-how to create ‘hit’ apps, like Edge, for example,” says Humblot.
Bulletproof’s core game idea of stopping bullets to save a human life was designed by La chose in October 2010. It was then that the agency approached Mobigame.
“They wanted to make your iPhone a weapon to fight for human rights, by giving money directly to Amnesty International. Amnesty approved this concept, and La chose asked us if we were interested to make it. Of course, we wanted to help Amnesty, and we made the game for free, it’s our gift to the cause,” says David Papazian, CEO of Mobigame.
“Amnesty wanted to save the prisoner’s life, not to make him survive as long as possible, that’s why the game is sliced into levels. Pass a level and you save a life. Also we had some issues with the broken glass effect when you fail to stop the bullets.
“Apple did not want us to use it in the pack shot for the marketing, because, the iPhone itself could be seen as ‘breakable’. Other than that, Apple helped us a lot with some other technical issues, and we just did the best possible game with this concept. We are all very proud of the result.”
RAISING AWARENESS THROUGH INTERACTIVITY
Using downloadable games as a source of fundraising and digital activism is a growing trend. Animal rights organisation PETA has previously used web-based Flash games to draw attention to their cause with satires of Cooking Mama and Super Meat Boy.
Does Amnesty International intend to commission more games in future to help spread awareness of its human rights campaigns?
“It’s too early to answer,” says Humblot, “we need first to study the results of Bulletproof, but we think more about a generic app calling for action than another game. But obviously, these new technologies have a huge potential to help us spreading awareness of our fight.”
The tremendous reach of digital distribution platforms, like the App Store, does mean the mere presence of apps of any kind produced for organisations or campaigns could result in greater awareness.
But while Papazian too is unsure about the effectiveness of spreading awareness through games, he does feel that games offer the means to present an engaging message that will get people talking.
“I don’t know if games are useful for spreading awareness about campaigns. I think that the goal here was to make people talk about it. You often have to kill people in video games, but in this one, you can see the violence of an execution, except that you have to save a life. In the end it’s a metaphor. Spend a dollar and Amnesty will stop human rights violation, like you are stopping bullets,” he says.
“Many people understand it and like the idea. Some others are shocked. It also shows some absurdities. It seems that people who are shocked prefer to play to Call of Duty because it’s easier to kill innocent people in a virtual world, than trying to save people in the real world.
“It’s like if they were saying ‘how dare you to make a toy to remind me that I did absolutely nothing to save those people?’. But the good thing is they are all talking about Amnesty International, so we believe the campaign is a success. A video game is a piece of art, and like books or movies, they can help to spread awareness about some issues.”
Bulletproof is available now from the App Store.