I’m admittedly not a hardcore “gamer”, so I was a little bit nervous when my good friend Joel Bartlett—Director of Marketing for PETA, winner of the 2009 Convio Innovator Award for Advocacy—asked me to moderate a session here at South by Southwest Interactive on “Games for Good”. (Don’t get me wrong – I played my fair share of Starcraft and Command and Conquer back in the day, but still.) Thankfully, the panel was made up of some great experts on the topic, so I pretty much just had to sit back and watch.
The metrics for PETA’s online Nintendo parody Super Chick Sisters really are impressive. Since it launched 4 months ago, the game, which uses humor and “ground stomps” to draw attention to PETA’s campaign to convince McDonald’s to adopt more humane slaughter methods, has been played more than 6 million times.
If you’re asking yourself, “but, how engaged were all of those people?”, consider this: PETA has seen users spending on average more than 10 minutes playing the game. I think Super Chick Sisters really is a great example of how nonprofits can integrate games into their online marketing efforts, and I’d love to see more organizations get into this space.
Asi Burak of Impact Games/Games for Change also shared some really inspiring examples of games that give users an outlet to contemplate serious issues, combating some of the negative stereotypes about games in the process. (I’m with Asi – we need a new phrase for video games, like graphic novel for comic books.) Asi’s PeaceMaker game offers players the ability to step into the role of either the Israeli Prime Minister or the Palestinian President, with the formidable task of bringing peace to the Middle East. The game has gotten attention from both sides of the conflict. Asi says Impact Games does not hide its intentions behind the game – there is one way to “win”, and that involves following the plan to peace that has the most support among the UN, Israel, and Palestine alike.
Finally on the panel was Raphael Colantonio, Creative Director at Arkane Studios (who you may know from the work they’ve done on games like Arx Fatalis, Call of Duty 5, and Bioshock 2). I’m glad Raphael was able to join us, and as the gaming industry expert, keep all of us on the panel honest. Raphael points out that it is often more impactful to allow the player to learn lessons on right and wrong through game play, rather than something more overt. Also, for anyone considering developing games for good, Raphael notes that its important to remember that your game must be fun to be effective, after all, your game will be competing for attention against multi-million dollar games like Rock Band.
If you weren’t able to make it to SXSWi this year, or you were tied up in another panel this afternoon, follow the #gamesforgood hashtag where the conversation is continuing. You can also feel free to find me at Convio’s nonprofit technology bash at B.D. Riley’s tomorrow night!