Games for Change

This past June, in an effort to better understand the emerging use of games to inspire social change, the Clapham Group attended the 8th Annual Games for Change conference in New York City. Speakers included former Vice-President Al Gore, Laura Hartman (Zynga.org), James H. Shelton III (U.S. Department of Education), Jesse Scheell (Professor of Entertainment Technology at Carnegie Mellon University and Owner, Schell Games), Allyson Knox (Academic Program Manager at Microsoft), Rachel Sterne (Chief Digital Officer for the City of New York), Tom Scott (Director, Global Brand & Innovation – Communications, The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation), and many others.The conversation, well past the initial question of if games inspire social change, is now looking at how gaming, utilized through transmedia platforms, is maximizing its social impact. Companies like Zynga, creators of the game Cityville that have over 88 million monthly users, are utilizing social gaming to educate, inspire, activate, fund-raise, and ultimately change the world.Following the earthquake in Haiti, Zynga utilized their game Farmville to raise over $4 million dollars to benefit the people of Haiti. They partner with organizations to promote education, clean water, animal protection, food development, and poverty alleviation. Following the recent gulf oil spill, tsunami in Japan, and tornadoes in the US - Zynga quickly organized its gamers and has raised more than $10 million for donations to non-profit organizations from payments made by their players for the purchase of virtual/online goods.Gaming is not simply mobilizing people to action, it is changing world-view through education and experience.  In fact, the MacArthur Foundation is investing $85 million dollars in digital media and learning. See the video of Connie Yowell below:Games for Change Festival 2011: Connie Yowell from Games for Change on Vimeo.As Jesse Schell, the closing keynote speaker, states below, "suddenly people are looking at this field for the potential and power that it has."Games for Change Festival 2011: Jesse Schell from Games for Change on Vimeo.The Clapham Group is working with its clients, in partnership with major gaming companies, to explore how social gaming can be used to further advance the good, true, and beautiful.