Gaming for good has become a growing area of interest within the industry.
In the past 12 months, firms such as EA, Rovio, Miniclip and Jagex have taken it upon themselves to support varying global charities. Even YouTube celebs such as Yogscast, PewDiePie and Athene have been supporting causes close to their hearts.
It is not a revolutionary phenomena to see celebrities and media support charities. Thanks to the rapid growth of the industry, gaming logically seems to be the next sector to embrace this. For developers, the real USP is this: Games tell stories.
As players, we interact with these in a very personal way. We enable them, act them out, lose ourselves in their content, and fully embrace their ability to transport us from one locale to another with the click of a button.
Charities themselves have incredible stories to tell that can attract huge support from far and wide. What if we combine the power of real world calls for help with games?
BEATING THE BULLIES
There are so many great examples to talk about, but one in particular stands out for me: High School Story by Pixelberry Studios.
In October 2013, the team at Pixelberry had been contacted by a player who was distressed about being cyberbullied and not sure where to go for help. Concerned for the welfare of the teenager, the devs found a helpline for the young person to get expert advice. This made them think: how many other young people playing High School Story are suffering with the same issues and don’t know what to do?
A cyberbullying quest was integrated into High School Story helping to raise awareness, provide support and raise money for a particular charity: Cybersmile. Pixelberry enlisted the organisation’s support to ensure the content within the quest was accurate.
Finally, the team added a special charity bundle, purchased with virtual currency, and a decorative flag to allow players to show their support within the game for this cause.
Instantly, High School Story players flocked to the quest and bundle. Cybersmile recorded a spike of 100 new calls per week and around 3,000 new young people called for support.
Those who needed support were directed to Cybersmile where they could talk to an expert. By the end of the campaign, over $320,000 was raised to support the 24-hour helpline they have running.
Following the campaign, Pixelberry received a heart-warming letter from a parent of a High School Story player. The mother told of how her daughter had been left distraught after being bullied online and didn’t know who to turn to. She discovered Cybersmile through High School Story and then found the courage to reach out and gain the support she needed. The exact sign off on the email was: “Thank you for saving my daughter”.
The world, and especially the media, must see games as a force for good and start to focus on how games can help instead of harm. Games can save more lives than we can ever imagine and this is just scratching the surface.
Jude Ower is CEO and founder of Playmob, an organisation dedicated to helping connect games developers with charities and other causes. You can find out more about their work by headng to: www.playmob.com