Can games be a force for good?

Discussion in 'Public Game Developers Forum' started by BravadoWaffle, Jul 18, 2012.

  1. BravadoWaffle

    BravadoWaffle Well-Known Member

    Sep 25, 2010
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    Hey guys, I posted an article on Gamasutra that got featured today titled When Designing Socially Conscious Games Is Bad... and I thought it might spark some interesting discussions here at TA.

    It's clear that games influence people more than ever before. The problem is right now most social "games" these days are essentially money-machine psychology experiments with candy coatings. They are empty and meaningless, mostly promote negative themes, manipulate users, and are hemorrhaging players left and right. This is no secret.

    How much responsibility falls onto the game designers shoulders to use this power to influence people to make meaningful games? Is it possible to be both profitable and socially conscious as a small game studio?

    What do you think?
     
  2. Echoseven

    Echoseven Moderator
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    Jul 19, 2011
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  3. Bigmac1910

    Bigmac1910 Member

    Jul 13, 2012
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    It's a tricky question, but from my perspective, it's mostly entertainment. While a message can be conveyed through the more cinematic/learning style games, the ones you are talking about are pure entertainment for me.

    Personally I don't play Farmville style games (cost to much), but they are equally legitimate reality escape as any hard core game out there. As long as people feel they get value for money and don't feel ripped off, I'm ok with that.
     
  4. BravadoWaffle

    BravadoWaffle Well-Known Member

    Sep 25, 2010
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    Awesome video! Very inspiring! And thanks for the extra 7.5 minutes. :)

    It is all entertainment, and that's an important fact to remember! As soon as you cross the line between entertaining and trying to push a message you loose most gamers.

    However, it seems like the opposite is proving true- Zynga can't retain users for the life of them in their games. At first their games feel like escapism, but before long new gamers realize it's just a treadmill designed to suck your time and dollars devoid of any real satisfaction and payoff. Millions are leaving Zynga daily with a bad taste in their mouth and a bitter attitude.

    What if at the same time as providing entertainment we could be adding another layer of depth to games by promoting positive messages, creating meaningful shared experiences, or letting them donate to a charity through play...

    What do you think would happen to DAU, MAU, and player retention levels then? What would happen to the virality of the game?

    What would happen if instead of spamming your friend's facebook wall so you can get more seeds, you ask your friends for help on twitter so you can get enough points to plant another tree in the rainforest?
     
  5. AlienSpace

    AlienSpace Well-Known Member

    May 28, 2010
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    Games are just tools. As such, they can be used for good or for bad.
     
  6. BravadoWaffle

    BravadoWaffle Well-Known Member

    Sep 25, 2010
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    Exactly. So what I want to know is do you think one can build a successful game company built off of games for good?

    Perhaps that is the next step in acquiring and retaining users, specifically the elusive Gen Y users!


    • 61% of 13-25 year olds feel personally responsible for making a difference in the world
    • 81% have volunteered in the past year
    • 69% consider a company's social and environmental commitment when deciding where to shop
    • 83% will trust a company more if it is socially/environmentally responsible
    http://www.premisemarketing.com/blog/post/change-the-world/
     
  7. RevolvingDoor

    RevolvingDoor Well-Known Member

    Dec 13, 2009
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  8. Bigmac1910

    Bigmac1910 Member

    Jul 13, 2012
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    I don't think you can build a gaming company out of good only, unless you are only making educational games or something like that. But then you are pretty much outside of the "real" gaming industry.

    Gaming from my perspective is the purest form of entertainment, cause you are the hero, and the games make you feel that you have accomplished something. Some games do this better than others. Of course who is considered to be a hero is decided by the point of views of that society.

    Some companies are trying to exploit that, but people can see through that quite quickly and won't be back. I personally feel that gaming should be left as pure entertainment and let the consumers decide whether they want to support that piece of software or not. Also, most gamers are good :).
     
  9. nvx

    nvx Well-Known Member

    Jan 7, 2011
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    Interesting statistics

    But to answer the question:
    "do you think one can build a successful game company built off of games for good?"

    I say Yes it is possible, but certainly not easy

    I would bet that most Gamers that spend the most money on games/iAP are from the older generation, aged 25+ who are less inclined to "change the world" and more eager to consume entertainment

    So the choice developers face is:
    do we try to market our games at Gen-Y gamers for the "greater good"?
    or do we try to market our games at the older generation for greater sales?

    As with all things, we must strive to hit yet another balance in order to try become successful, this time between Profitability and Education.

    And as with all things, different developers will have their own opinions and bias ;)
     
  10. mr.Ugly

    mr.Ugly Well-Known Member

    Dec 1, 2009
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    the humble bundle is a service.. non of the games themself are "educational"

    if cou want to donate to charity, donate to them.. why on earth do you need to go through 10 hoops todo so?

    why do you need to bundle indie games with a charity? because its good pr.
    why do you need to buy beer to help the "virgin forrest" (urwald)? because its good pr bullshit..

    i bought every bundle and never gave anything to childs play..because why on earth should i send money to one of the richest country to the usa can buy an xbox for some sick child.. where on the other side of the planet a ####ing child dies because it has no food.

    so no humbe bundle is not good in my book and childs play neither..

    if you want to donate.. write a check and send it to the charity of your choice.. don't bundle it with your "product" to make you look good..

    /rant over..


    so back to the topic (which is not donating/charity)

    i think games are entertainment.. and people choose themself how they want to be entertained.. one watches action flick #36 on dvd and the other watches a documentary..

    but its the same with games.. either you are educational or not.. and if you are educational you are in a seperate niche..

    to plaster a game with a "message" is not good or evil.. its just a "theme", skin whatever you want to call it..

    but that makes a game neither "good" or "bad".

    if you want to make an educational game , good make one. but it will be an educational game.. and if its not educational.. its a fake "generic" games with a "good" theme slapped on it..

    people play call of duty and blow their brains out a million time every day because its fun todo so..

    i fail to see the theoretic esotherical mumbo jumbo some "game designers" need to apply to their product to differentiate themself from the rest.

    make a good game about slicing of heads from baby bamby, make a million bucks.. send the money to africa.. "good" job done..

    should a "game" be a force of good? no i don't think so..

    can an individual be a force of good? yeah if he wants to, go for it..
     
  11. mr.Ugly

    mr.Ugly Well-Known Member

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    thats what i call awesome pr bullshit.. throw in some random numbers without giving a backlink to the source to see how thoose numbers came to be in the first place.. not to mention this is an blogpost from 2010!

    then thrown in buzzwords like "gen Y" yes! check! add some fancy pantsy theories... and voila.. the hole blogpost is one big pile of pr bs backed by nothing but thin air... and then people read that crap.. and actually believe it.. oh my..

    well i read it on the internet , so it must be true.. o_O

    apparently generation y is already braindead..

    at least with have generation Z soon.. so start training http://www.dayzmod.com/
     
  12. mr.Ugly

    mr.Ugly Well-Known Member

    Dec 1, 2009
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    what has retaining users todo with being a force of "good" ?

    zynga loses players because its normal todo so.. no game retains their games indefinatly.. they move one.. and best if they move on to a product of "your" company.. but that for you need to have new products.. and thats where zynga is slow at.. releasing new products to retain the customers..

    wow looses ground fast.. and the addons are means to retain users and gain some back..

    so what has this all todo with "being a force for good" ?

    everything you consume is only of short term interest for you, because you want variety.. you don't eat the same food every day, you don't watch the same tv series every day, you don't wear the same clothes every day.. you change..

    so its a normal process for any media to loose its buzz when people move on to the next thing.. but still i don't see what this had todo with the "good" part..
     
  13. Juan_Arteaga

    Juan_Arteaga Member

    Jul 13, 2012
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    What would be the definition of a 'force of good' game?

    Are we talking about extrictly educational games like Carmen San Diego?

    Are we talking about regular games but with an educational component like Captain Novolin for the SNES?

    Would a game like the first Metal Gear Solid count? The game had a theme about how you can determine your destiny, and I suppose the producers of the game had the noble intention of teaching that to kids.
     
  14. BravadoWaffle

    BravadoWaffle Well-Known Member

    Sep 25, 2010
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    Mr. Ugly, that was a whole lot of ranting, and far too much for me to respond to. So I'll leave you with three links (dozens more studies available with simple google search) and agree to completely disagree with you on this one:

    http://www.greenbook.org/marketing-research.cfm/millennial-cause-study
    http://socialmediatoday.com/davidjohnson4/563490/gen-y-harnessing-power-loyalty-generation
    http://persuasivesocial.com/social-media-for-business/social-purpose-the-deciding-factor-in-your-customers-doing-business-with-you/

    Here's what I'd like to prove-

    Games for good, built around quality game designs, with a meaning and a purpose that show users that it's easy to improve their lives and improve the world while having fun will do the following:

    • Increases Player Retention
    • Enhances game Virality
    • Boosts DAU
    • Grows Brand Loyalty (especially among GenY)
    • Expands distribution
    • Lowers player acquisition costs
    • Decrease marketing expenses
    =
    Improved monetization

    It would be awesome to prove that a small studio can stand out, become profitable, and improve the world by following this kind of model.
     
  15. RevolvingDoor

    RevolvingDoor Well-Known Member

    Dec 13, 2009
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    @Mr.Ugly:

    I must admit, I'm kind of dumbstruck by your response. Let me see if I can get this straight...

    -Child's Play is bad, because as long as children are starving somewhere, comforting sick children is not a worthy cause
    -The humble bundles are "not good in your book" but you "bought every bundle"
    -It's bad when a company uses charity to gain more exposure, even though it means someone in need also benefits, because... Well, I'm not too clear on this point, since you didn't actually give a reason.
     
  16. schplurg

    schplurg Well-Known Member

    #16 schplurg, Jul 20, 2012
    Last edited: Jul 20, 2012
    81% of 13-25 year olds have "volunteered" in the past year? I seriously doubt that, whatever volunteered means. There's no link to show where the data came from.

    People feel different ways about companies using a charity to make them money. I am usually skeptical of such tactics.

    "Buy a soda and we'll send $.10 to starving children (but you're gonna have to pay us for that soda first)."

    I actually worked for a "charity collector" for a short time. The charities would pay him to solicit and gather donations, then he would forward the money to the charities....after he took out his cut, which was 85%.

    The phone solicitors had to get paid...they make a commission. 35%!
    The owner gets 35% (he worked out of his house)
    The people who go out and collect the money from people get 15%. That was me, as a young man, until I realized what was going on. Then I quit.

    The charities only received 15% of total money earned. This guy even told me I could take food home for myself that people had donated for food drives. Scum.

    But all of these good donators felt good about themselves and felt that they made a difference, which they really did not, unbeknownst to them. So this whole thing about "feeling good" is often just a smokescreen.

    "Feeling good" is the marketing strategy for Gen Y.

    So yeah, using charity to boost sales is a marketing strategy. However, it is usually abused, and often leaves a bad taste in peoples mouths.

    It is because of all this that I am probably less likely to buy something from a company that claims they are helping some great cause. Most of the time it is a PR trick and utter bullshit.

    When a company advertises that they are giving to charity - however they are doing it - it's still just that: an advertisement for themselves.

    Charity, helping...it's all great stuff. Just look at it all with a very skeptical (even cynical) eye.

    Heard a great phrase once - true charity is anonymous.
     
  17. mr.Ugly

    mr.Ugly Well-Known Member

    Dec 1, 2009
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    yes the money goes into the wrong direction.. if little billy cuts his finger , while little purkishan is run over by a car and you help billy then there is something wrong, big time.

    childs play is mainly US based, they only want money and they want to spend that money on amazon wishlists.. i mean if this does not ring more than one warning bell i don't know.. hey i want to donate my used xbox and my 30 games.. no interest thank you, but if you have cash . . .

    where are the families of thoose poor children in a us hospital , who lack a xbox and need comfort which the family obviously can't provide since you need electronic games for that..

    this completely disgust me because that view is so twisted its not even funny. Most probably never where in a poor countries hosptial to see how reality really looks there.. i've only been to the ones where my parents come from.. macedonia and serbia in this case.. and the conditions there are probably average in a word wide balance.. but so shocking for someone who was born and lived in germany for his life that this was something i will never forget..

    if you think that dirty, bug ridden hospitals, where dead people lay next to living ones, where sheets are probably changes on a yearly base, where there is NO medicine at all and you as the family are responsible to buy the expensive medicine if you want to get help.. this is a ####ed up situation..
    where a doctor sends you home because he can't help you.. this can be devastating how poor people can be..

    so yes i rage about sorry ####ing games for sick children in the us, where on elsewhere people die... one kid needs comfort or lacks that.. the other one won't see the next day.. he does not want comfort he want to get a chance..
    there are places where the money is hundredfold more usefull and needed than with childs play..

    so yes.. childs play shows whats wrong with western society and its perception of necessary charity.


    just my humble optinion.. sorry for the rant.. but thats one of the few topics that just enrages me.. all thoose wannabee charities here and there and people who think they do good by sending money that way.. makes me sad and enraged at the same time..

    again sorry if i come off too hostile.. this is not personal to anyone.. but more a ####ed up reality most people like to ignore.


    wel i of course talk about the elusive "force of good".. whatever this means..
    and in my book the indie bundles are exactly that.. indie bundles of mostly good quality.. but i see the lack of "force of good" only because they allow you to allocate some of the money to a imho dubious charity

    yes if you use charity for the sake of making you look good then yes.. you start an ad campaign to save the rain forrest and spend 1cent of every i think it was like 20€ purchase thats more than low.. thats if bill gates would send a 10 dollar checke so some charity and wants to be praised for it.. this would be foul.. whereas billy is actually one of the prime example of force of good, because he uses his wealth for good.
     
  18. BravadoWaffle

    BravadoWaffle Well-Known Member

    Sep 25, 2010
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    @Mr Ugly- I read a statistic the other day that said something like the US has 20% of the world's children, but 70% of the world's toys. Kind of funny actually. So yea, it is not that it's a bad cause, there's just so many problems out there, where do you start?

    It's like telling a vegan that they are hypocritical because they wear clothing made in sweat shops. So while they refuse to eat animal products, children are slaving away to make the clothing on their backs...

    @Schplurg- You bring up a very good point. It's a slippery slope once you start bringing charities into the mix, it seems like that bring along a lot of other potential issues and scrutiny.

    It's a bit depressing really...
     
  19. RevolvingDoor

    RevolvingDoor Well-Known Member

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    @ Mr.Ugly:

    I really appreciate the well thought out response, but I still can't agree. Your example doesn't make sense. What if both Billy and Purkishan got hit by a car? Is it worse to help Billy, just because he was lucky enough to be born in a better place? Is there any reason they're both not equally deserving of help? Kids in hospitals, US or otherwise, don't need a bandaid -- they have something seriously wrong with them, they are probably in pain, confused, sad, alienated etc. I think these kids deserve a good distraction. Sometimes that XBox is going to be some terminally ill cancer patient's last chance to feel like a kid, and like a human being, and that is a great service, if you ask me.

    I don't think it makes sense to put charitable acts in some kind of hierarchy. IMO, charity is helping whoever you can the best you can. There is no "wrong" charity. I have donated to causes abroad, to causes in the US, to no-kill animal shelters (yes, while humans suffer...) Even though I'm not exactly rolling in the dough. And the reason I do that is because suffering is suffering. I'm not even going to attempt to sort out who is suffering more, who is more deserving of help. I am not that wise. So, my philosophy is, if I can help, I try to help.

    I think it's great when a charitable cause and a business work well together some way. I can't see why it wouldn't be better than the alternative. Look at it this way... Without Child's Play, a lot of people wouldn't be aware of the Humble Bundles. And if a few bucks go to buy an XBox or two, which sick kids can use to distract themselves from what might otherwise be an extremely bleak day, who's the worse off?
     
  20. RevolvingDoor

    RevolvingDoor Well-Known Member

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    @Bravado: Interesting statistic. When I read something like that, I can't help but think of the fact that most toys are not US made... So the fact that the US has a surplus of toys means, someone in another country is getting a chance to feed their children. From that point of view, it doesn't seem at all amoral, at least to me.
     

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