Whether from aliens, traitors, mutants or disease, it can be argued the classic video game narrative requires its player to do one thing above all else: Save the world.
Today’s developers are evolving that classic narrative with renewed purpose, building games that no longer simply pretend to save the world, but actually go about doing it.
Cognizant that game design can inspire and catalyze real-world behavior, brands and nonprofits have begun building “games for good.” These developers are proving that interactive games can do much more than entertain, but harness player participation for a global greater good.
"Fatworld" is a game funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting that explores obesity, nutrition, and socioeconomics in contemporary America. The game’s goal is not to tell people what to eat or how to exercise, but to demonstrate the complex, interwoven relationship between nutrition and real-world factors like budgets, food production, subsidies, and regulations.
"Energyville" is an interactive game created by Chevron and The Economist Group that challenges players to power a virtual city through 2030 while lowering the economic, environmental and security impacts of doing so. It's great for students, teachers or anyone who is interested in learning more about the complexities of energy management and how energy affects our cities and our lives.
"Food Force" is an educational game published by the United Nations World Food Program. It takes place on the fictional island of Sheylan in the Indian Ocean, where players must help distribute food to the famine-affected country after a string of droughts and civil war left its people starving. As the newest member of a team of UN experts composed of a nutritionist, logistics officer, pilot, appeals officer and director of food purchasing, the player must help the country recover and once again become self-sufficient.
"PeaceMaker" is a video game inspired by real events in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that allows players to step into the shoes of either the Israeli Prime Minister or the Palestinian President. The goal for both roles is to bring peace to the region before your term in office concludes. The game includes real news footage and images, challenging players to react to the events in real time.
In a few weeks, the video game industry is expected to announce several gaming-for-good initiatives, highlight this year’s best practices and provide funding for dozens of new games at the Games for Health (June 12-14 in Boston) and Games for Change (June 18-20 in New York City) conferences.
As brands and social movements consider their campaigns, gaming should certainly be included beside all forms of messaging and media. Video games’ interactivity ensures a social message isn’t just heard or seen, but embodied and empathized with.