CHICAGO, Illinois – Video games have become a billion dollar-a-year industry. With all the attention focused on games each year, some gaming studios have realized the potential for gaming as a medium for advocacy. With millions of gamers world-wide, video game advocacy has the potential to reach audiences young and old from Africa to the United States.
Website Games For Change has taken it upon itself to help build support and give exposure to games that are trying to make a difference. The website is populated with games, reviews and press releases which cover games on any platform to persuade potential gamers to give gaming for advocacy a chance. Of course, not all the games get great reviews, but many of them do.
Developed by Firma Studio with the help of Pulitzer Prize winning authors Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn—whose book Half The Sky inspired the title—Half the Sky Movement: The Game allows gamers to play as protagonist Radhika, a poor Indian woman living on a farm. The purpose of the game is to educate potential gamers on living conditions for women in developing worlds.
For her part, Radhika is trying to send her daughter to school but is unable to procure the funds from her husband. Instead of giving up on her daughter’s future, Radhika decides to take it upon herself to raise the money to give her daughter the education she deserves. From here gamers take over, navigating Radhika through a series of adventures culminating in a trip to the UN.
Along the way, Radhika must raise farm animals to feed her daughter, collect books to help educate schools, collect medicine to cure her daughter’s illness and deliver a speech to the United Nations.
With nifty graphics, a compelling story, and intuitive gameplay, Half the Sky pushes the boundaries of what gaming can accomplish. Fighting against the claims of exacerbation of violence, games like Half the Sky are showing us just how this new medium can be used to help fight global poverty.
But in game achievements and a sense of women’s ordeals in developing countries are not all gamers will get out of Half the Sky. By reaching certain milestones or gaining achievements in game, players trigger real world donations. For instance, when Radhika collects books for the entire school in-game, players are able to give a real book donation to a child who really needs it. Johnson & Johnson and Pearson have each contributed $250,000 to purchase real world operations from the Fistula Foundation and books for Room to Read.
With over 1.1 million registered players since its March release, Half the Sky has received $450,000 dollars in donations from players and corporate sponsors, triggered 250,000 free book donations and donated more than $163,000 for fistula surgeries. Clearly, the impact of advocacy gaming is profound.
The game is available on Facebook or a recently released mobile version of the game via gamesforchange.com. While mainstream titles will always be the mainstay of the gaming industry, gaming for advocacy is slowly but surely cutting out a niche for itself.