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SxSWi: Causebuilding Games

With over 100 slides, Causebuilding Games was jam-packed with examples, valuable tips and resources for creating games for good. Panelists Josephine Dorado and Evonne Heyning also managed to incorporate real-life gaming into the session by asking the audience cause-related gaming questions which they could answer on Twitter with prizes for the best answers. Some of the more critical points nonprofits who are interested in gaming should consider include:

  1. What is your game trying to achieve? Games could be used to generate awareness of a cause, influence behavior change, spur real life advocacy and raise money.
  2. What are some elements that make games successful? Rewards, empathy, community play and complexity are some of the ingredients of the more successful games already on the market.
    • Rewards: Virtual goods are a great means of creating a following for your game. What incentives might be offered to keep players coming back (i.e. virtual currency, badges, points)? Consider corporate sponsorships that can make virtual goods translate into real world rewards (i.e. donations for your cause).
    • Empathy: A truly successful causebuilding game elicits an emotional response for the game’s social cause. And as is well known and often cited within the nonprofit world, emotional engagement is critical to generating long-term support for an organization’s cause.
    • Community play: Is there an online good game community for players to engage with? Game communities give players the opportunity to compete and/or collaborate with others, heightening the gaming experience.
    • Complexity: An effective game will level up the gaming experience for long-term engagement. To keep players engaged, it’s important to ask, does the game allow the player to learn, grow and discover new things?
  3. What is needed to develop a causebuilding game? Causebuilding Game Development requires certain necessary skills that bridge the nonprofit and gaming worlds, including: game design; strategic development; nonprofit management; educational opportunities; writing for entertainment; compassionate communicators; inspirational artists; and legal, financial, and administrative support.

Anyone looking for game examples can take a look at 2010’s top five social games for change: Evoke, Interrobang, Participatory Chinatown, People Power and Macon Money. Additional causebuilding game examples that better illustrate some of the previous bullet points can be found in the complete slide deck for the presentation. Nonprofits interested in diving into the world of gaming should visit or read any one of the books on the subject recommended by the presenters.


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