An Idea I’ve Been Playing With: Gaming As A Major Vehicle For Young People (And Advertisers) to Give Back

22Mar09

 

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I wrote this for the Edelman Digital blog and thought I would share it here as well.

Obama’s rallying cry in the 2008 election was centered on a vision for and commitment to mutual social responsibility. “We will ask Americans to serve. We will create new opportunities for Americans to serve. And we will direct that service to our most pressing national challenges.”

And the midst of Wall Street’s woes, it has been incredibly interesting for me to watch that spike in exuberance for cause and volunteerism come to fruition. In particular, the scrappiness of Web communities armed with ChipIn, PayPal and a 140 character call to action has allowed digital kids from every age and income bracket to rally impressive support for worthy causes, sometimes in the blink of a day. I’ve been trying this myself each week since last October.

One of my favorite examples of ingenuity in digital service came from the UN and its Free Rice quiz. Answer a vocabulary question and 10 grains of rice are donated to the World Food Cause. Smart, simple and actually quite fun.

It got me thinking that gaming might just be one of the best new vehicles for young people to donate their time and give back.

With the incredible popularity of online gaming for all millennials and in particular, young kids and tweens (84% of 2-14 year olds are active gamers via computer, Web, video game system, digital music player or cellphone according to the NDP Group), games like Free Rice could be activated on a much larger level.

Imagine if a full suite of games was developed, a pool of major sponsors was assembled and suddenly every student in schools across the country, even better, the world, was asked to donate a half hour of homework time every night to an educational (or purely fun) game that gave them points redeemable for charitable donations that supported local and national initiatives. Maybe this could be an offshoot of point-based social gaming site, OMGPOP (until recently known as iminlikewithyou).

This could be counted as part of the community service time that most schools and colleges now require students to fulfill. Of course, in person community service time would still be valued and encouraged, but this could be an easy and accessible entry point for a large number of young people to give back.

Thoughts? Other ideas for using the Web to encourage community service?

Image borrowed from Ikhlasul Amal on Flickr.

-Amanda Mooney



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