Gaming for Good

Video games are stereotyped as the nerdy pastime of bespectacled geeks. However, game designer Jane McGonigal believes they can save the world, according to Nathaniel Whittemore at Change.org.

In 2006, MTV produced the first activist video game, Darfur is Dying, which accrued 700,000 players. Games for Change, a non-profit, created a video game in which players dole out microcredit loans and sign petitions as a complement to Nick Kristof’s book Half the Sky.

McGonigal founded Avant Game because “reality is broken,” but “game designers can fix it” by creating games in which virtual reality echoes real world problems. EVOKE, set to launch in March, derives its name from an African proverb: “If you have a problem, and you can’t solve it alone, EVOKE it.”

An Ad for EVOKE, Episode 1: Famine! (Screenshot: urgentevoke.com)

McGonigal describes it as a “ten-week crash course in changing the world.” It is also a World Bank Institute project and players who complete all the quests and missions will be certified as WBI Social Innovators. In addition, top players will have the opportunity to meet social innovators and business leaders.

Screenshot: zynga.com

Did you know video games can even raise real money? Zynga, the maker of the popular Facebook game Farmville, raised $1.5 million for Haiti in just five days by selling limited edition virtual goods. Before the earthquake, Farmville sold $2 million worth of “virtual sweet potato seeds,” half of which was donated to charities in Haiti. (To put this into perspective, around the same time, nearly 8,000 nonprofits raised $2.1 million via the Case Foundation’s America’s Giving Challenge.)

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