How might video gaming advance social causes? Do people study this?
January 22, 2019 4:30 AM   Subscribe

I get really excited when environment/development/social improvements intersect with a major trend in emerging media: today its video games (e.g. on console/PC/mobile platforms and AR/VR) and info about the video game industry. Some games are built expressly for social causes, but increasingly there are fundraisers held on very large/established game platforms donating "media time", or characters, or in-app purchases or donations to social causes. I want to know more. Where/to whom do I look?

I'm really fascinated by emerging media vectors, how they develop, and how they impact social change worldwide (especially when younger generations are involved).

I've been exploring the topic of video games and changing demographics, who is playing what around the world, purchasing vs downloaded games, use of consoles/vs PCs/vs mobile phones.

I've been able to uncover some statistical sources on the games industry, lots of marketing reports that are behind paywalls, and some (browsing on twitch and steam) examples of games. But I want to know more: how/how can video games help social causes, and who has already done thinking/acting/communicating about this? Are there foundations that have covered this? Wasn't there an advisor to the white house on this topic at one point, and did any policy recommendations result? If so, what would be my search terms? (note: my inquiry refers to developments around the world, not just limited to the US).

The (video) games I'm referring to have environments, characters, in-game items, integrated storylines, AR/VR information/environments, in-game purchases or advertising, corporate donations or 'campaigns' for a philanthropic cause, or corporate commitments (no phthalates in plastics, buy back of consoles, reminders to consumers to use power strips etc).

game examples:
-angry birds donating "champions for the earth"
-runescape: united for wildlife
-sweet seeds for haiti
-never alone: indigenous culture theme
-dumb ways to kill oceans game
-plants vs zombies 2/wwf

I've also watched a few videos of 'luminaries' (ted type talks) who speak (in very vague terms) about video gaming and the potential for 'social problem solving'... but they tend to be just a few minutes of mention... I can't help but thinking: there must be more.

Are there academics studying this stuff? Is the industry? Who are the 'luminaries'? Or are there gaming communities (perhaps inside an existing gaming platform), or industry networks active in this space? Where might I look?

Ive listed a few game examples above, and would love to hear about other examples, in particular for environment/poverty alleviation causes (if mefites have them or have suggestions for where else/who I would ask?)

In light of the '10 year lookback' trend on social media, I note that my first askmetafilter ask was this 2009 question on "becoming my employers 'new media guru'". 10 years and 2 employers later that dream has pretty much come true... Years ago I also asked this question (what apps can help kids get closer rather than further from nature/ avoid nature deficit disorder), which also generated great examples and so I thank the hive mind for the great ideas and for the contributions you've made toward my thinking and career directions in the past decade!

Note: my question pertains to video games (that may be played on mobile phones or PCs or consoles, or even passively watched on Twitch), I'm not referring to gambling and the like.
posted by iiniisfree to Technology (5 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
For video games created for a purpose, the particular search keyword you’re looking for is “serious games” and there is a LOT of information out there. (The purpose is not always a social cause, but there are a lot of social cause games out there.)

I don’t think there’s a particular study of fundraisers in virtual worlds as anything entirely separate from other types of charitable fundraisers — it’s just another manifestation of walkathons, galas, etc.
posted by Andrhia at 5:57 AM on January 22 [1 favorite]

Another good search key word is 'games for change' - this tends to be more 'we made a game to show how transphobia is bad' or the like, but might turn up some of what you're looking for.

Also worth looking at is the GDC Vault -- GDC is the global games dev conference, and I suspect at least a few talks will be about integrating the sort of thing you're looking for -- some of them are paid, some are free, so ymmv.
posted by bagheist at 6:40 AM on January 22

Well, this weekend the awesome Harry Brewis, Hbomberguy as he's known, raised over $340,000 for a trans charity centered around kids by playing Donkey Kong 64 for... like 50+ hours.

Harris is a Youtuber so his fame (moderate, niche as it might be) helped it get traction with other celebs, activisits or politicians stopping in like AOC and Chelsea Manning.

Games Done Quick is now a big thing that occurs quite frequently to raise huge amounts for charity. Often cancer research.

Many high profile gaming places do charity events. Penny Arcade does Child's Play for children's hospitals, etc.

So there's some examples. I think using influencers in this arena is a great way to get traction and a real result. Hbomberguy was directly protesting some asshat in England who is anti-transgender and look what he did!
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 7:49 AM on January 22

We raise over $200,000 every year in Second Life for the American Cancer Society with Relay for Life.
posted by DarlingBri at 8:47 AM on January 22

Jane McGonigal is a TED-talking luminary whose focus is using game to improve the world. She has a book, "Reality is Broken" that is a good read for those interested in games for change.

For a specific example, Re-Mission (and its sequel) was a video game made by Hopelab that was shown to improve treatment adherence in young people with cancer. (full disclosure: I was involved with its development).
posted by subocoyne at 10:53 AM on January 22

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