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Alternate Reality Saving Our Reality: What Games Could Mean for Your Cause

Games are not a means of escape. They aren't about living in an alternate reality. Games are about being present in the often painful reality of our world and enabling players to improve that reality. At least that's what the people behind last week's 8th Annual Games for Change Festival believe.

And they have me convinced. At the festival in New York City last week, I learned about a game by the City of New York that promotes designated driving, a Facebook game that explores the future of human rights issues such as race and immigration, a game that's helping smokers quit, a game from Microsoft that gets kids active in their real-life communities. Games can and are making a difference. So what could that mean for your nonprofit?

First, I think it's important to understand that we're entering a decade where gaming is universal, as social is now. The "gamer" stereotype is old news. It's time to accept that the general public--women, kids, businesspeople, whoever--are ready to enter the interactive world of social gaming. Seth Priebatsch of SCVNGR talks about the "game layer" in this TED talk:

But Games for Change wasn't about acknowledging the existence of the "game layer" -- the G4C audience was well aware of the prevalence of social gaming today. Rather, Games for Change was about realizing that pairing the right cause with the right game can result in real, sustainable, behavioral and social change. Can't picture a game for your cause? Fear not...Jamison Selby assured us on Festival Day Three that for every cause there's a game and for every game a cause, whether your goal is raising money, increasing awareness, shifting cultural attitudes, or otherwise. Still, amid all these assurances, Charles Tsai points out in his article on Games for Change in the Huffington Post that, "the social sector, as usual, is lagging behind."

Point taken. So, let's continue the conversation of the Games for Change conference -- a conversation between causes, game players, game developers and designers, marketers, educators, and more about games that are changing the world. There's a fantastic archive of the conference conversation, as well as a live dialogue on Twitter at #G4C2011. Here's a sampling of causemedia's voice in that conversation:

Causemedia at Games for Change

You can also watch the Livestream video archive of G4C here and read other blogs on the festival here.

Here at causemedia, we're exploring what games can do for our clients. What game would you ally with your cause? If your nonprofit built a game, what would it look like? What do you think of "gamification" in general? Do you think it could benefit your cause? We want to hear from you! Please post your comments below.

Title image source: Games for Change Festival 2011 page:, Video source: Talks TedX Seth Priebatsch: The Game Layer on Top of the World:

Cynthia Silva Parker (not verified) said

I love Seth's proposition that this is the decade where the game layer will be built. And I'm sobered by the jump the private sector has on the social sector. Glad to have found this important conversation!

Lotta (not verified) said

A game that helps people stop smoking and use a designated driver are very imporant and should really be promoted. Also Strategy Game Facebook can be useful when played to a limit, it really gets your strategic thinking going.