Will Social Gaming For Social Good Make A Difference?

WeTopia is a new online social game designed to raise money for children’s charities in the real world.  A first effort from Sojo Studios, it is a free-to-play Facebook game (meant to be part of a series) where players “create villages and help their neighbors.”  Designed to be fun for users while at the same time helping solve real-world issues, it’s the latest effort to turn social gaming into social good (social game maker Zynga has already donated millions to causes.)

 WeTopia Online Social Game For Social Good

How does playing the game translate into doing social good in the real world?

  • any purchase of virtual goods in the game results in a direct donation to a real world cause (ex buying a fountain in the game leads to a donation for clean water in the real world)
  • players can also earn ”joy” points by viewing sponsor ads (no purchase necessary)
  • sponsors then make donations to nonprofits that provide basic needs, healthcare, and education in the real world
  • players can track their contributions inside the game through pictures, videos, blogs and in-game posts

While some social games allow players to buy virtual goods with Facebook credits, only “a fraction of the cost” actually goes to aid programs, according to Games For Change,  a special interest group of Game Developers Conference.  With WeTopia, as players accumulate “joy” by playing the game, they can spend it on individual, real world campaigns.  Sojo has pledged that 50% of net profits will be donated to its charity beneficiaries.

Actual projects coming from these donations have already begun in the U.S. and Haiti; they will soon launch in Africa, Asia, Europe and South America, as reported by VentureBeat.  The donations go through well-known charities including Save the Children, buildOn, and the Children’s Health Fund.  Brand partners include Clorox, Mattel and Dippin’ Dots.

The inspiration for WeTopia came from founder Lincoln Brown’s presence in Haiti after the earthquake, and a desire to improve how people can contribute to social causes in a transparent way.

Food Force benefits World Food Programme image via Games For ChangeAnother game for social good – called Food Force – was also launched the same week as WeTopia. A reboot of a successful game (with the same name) funded back in 2005 by the World Food Programme, the new version “takes full advantage of the social web” – players have to interact with each other in order to progress. Players can buy crops, send friends on missions and buy virtual goods, which boost performance in-game and directly fund WFP projects in the real world, according to Games For Change.  As with WeTopia, players can see what their purchases are doing for children, in this game with a “real-life impact tracker.”

Developed and funded by Konami Digital Entertainment, it is their first free social game offering.

Will social games designed to benefit people in the world catch on, and make a real difference?  The social gaming market is huge and growing rapidly – can game developers get users excited about creating real social change through their play?