Over the past year we’ve seen some fantastic charity campaigns in games, through DLC, in-app purchases and via Twitch live streams. Gamers have helped raise millions of dollars and supported causes from planting trees to providing life saving hospital equipment. Gaming is now an effective place to fundraise for your favourite causes.
Something that you’re less likely to see inside of game these days is an awareness raising campaign, something that sets out to inform and educate players with helpful information about a cause or charity. For example a charity like the Royal National Lifeboat Institution or RNLI not only fundraise to provide lifesaving assistance for anyone at sea in the UK but also try to educate everyone about the dangers of going out to sea unprepared.
At Playmob we’re known for our fundraising campaigns but we’ve also helped create awareness raising ones as well. One of our most memorable campaigns involved educating players about rhino conservation and poaching using Runescape. Players could answer a daily question about Rhino conservation and after two questions answered correctly they would receive a white rhino in-game and after seven a rare black rhino. Jagex also worked with United for Wildlife and their conservationists program to put two young conservationists into the game.
The results were outstanding, over 57% of Runescapes daily players participated in the campaign and over 1.3 million questions were answered. In the end there were over ten times the amount of virtual rhinos in Runescape than there were left on the planet, a staggering statistic. Players loved the campaign and even some even signed up to support Rhino charities.
A campaign like this has the chance to really change and inform opinions on a huge scale. In campaigns involving cyberbullying quests educating players actually saved lives. Whilst I’m not disregarding the work the games industry and gamers have done for charities over the years I am encouraging developers to perhaps think about charities in a different light.
Critically acclaimed games like Journey or Never Alone tell such personal stories of struggle which seem to resonate with the industry and thousands of charities out there hold the same stories. Be it Amnesty International currently with the lack of light for over 80% of Syria or Oxfam who show children and families struggling for survival after disasters have hit. There are incredible stories and facts that developers could look to integrate into a game.
Previous games such as Half the Sky Movement: The Game which sought to not only empower women and girls throughout the world but also tell their stories in-game are a shining example of how merging these incredible stories with games can work.
Last year in an effort to raise awareness of the situation of children in South Sudan, UNICEF embarked on a similar kind of campaign. They sent an actor, a film crew and two South Sudanese youths to a major video game convention in Washington, D.C., and were given a keynote address slot to pitch an exciting new video game to an audience of gaming enthusiasts. What the attendees didn’t know was that the game idea revolved around a real story involving the two Sudanese refugees. It caused a storm, highlighting the harsh facts of their escape. Now imagine playing a game to it’s conclusion only to find out that everything you’d played had happened and your character was a real person. It provides a window into their life in a way that’s not possible through any other medium.
I wholeheartedly believe in the good that the games industry has done for charity over the years, but fundraising isn’t the only option. Perhaps awareness and education could change more lives than a donation? The games industry is in a unique position to tell these stories and I can’t wait to play them.