The central character, an Indian woman named Radhika, faces various challenges with the assistance of players, who can help out with donations of virtual goods, for example. The players can then make equivalent real-world donations to seven nonprofit organizations woven into the game.
Ten dollars, for example, will help buy a goat for Heifer International; $20 will help support United Nations Foundation immunization efforts.
To further engage players, those who reach predesignated levels unlock donations from Johnson & Johnson and Pearson, which have each contributed $250,000 to buy real-world operations from the Fistula Foundation and books for Room to Read, respectively.
Asi Burak, also co-president of Games for Change, said the hope is to draw two million to five million players, persuading 5 percent or more to donate. Players can play at no charge, but they will make faster progress through donations.”
I will hold off of judging this specific game until I have a chance to play it. (It doesn’t come out until March 4th, so it’s not really clear to me why the PR push is beginning now, approximately 179 internet-years in advance of that date).
However, is it just me, or does it seem like using the game for both awareness-raising and fund-raising is a strategy that is kind of at war with itself?
To encourage people to donate, the slow, no-donation path through the game needs to be annoying enough to prompt people to pay for the quicker progression – except that will probably also mean that a substantial number of gamers will neither donate nor complete the game. They will just stop playing, and go back to a non-educational game that’s designed purely to maximize addictiveness and fun. (And which may also offer charitable donations, via the various Zynga.org efforts.)
Basically, charities who use these educational change-making games remind me of parents who sneak vegetables into their kids’ food. Is a brownie that contains spinach more delicious than spinach alone? Probably. Is it, therefore, a decent spinach-delivery device if your end goal is to increase total spinach consumption? Sure. But it’s still less delicious than a regular spinach-free brownie.
If the spinach brownie is free, and the regular brownie isn’t, there is probably some constituency of spinach-hating children who will be like “fuck it, still a brownie, I’ll take five of them please.” (The imaginary children I know may swear like sailors when speaking to adults, but they never forget to say please.)
But if your theory is that kids can be convinced not only to eat the spinach brownies, but to first buy the spinach brownies from a bake sale that also offers delicious, non-spinach-smuggling regular brownies – then you’ve lost me. What kid who has to be tricked into eating spinach in the first place is going to take you up on that?
That’s roughly where I stand on this game. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to find myself a spinach-free brownie.