A Call For More Games to Promote Social Good

Ever since the emergence of gaming into popular culture, there have been countless innovations to technology, gameplay mechanics, and various other elements. As great as gaming has become and will keep improving, there are still parts of gaming and game culture that haven't changed as much as they should. Stories still tend to revolve around a lot of the same themes of post-apocalyptic sandbox adventures and space exploration gone awry. Don't get me wrong - these games are awesome, but there's room for more themes to be explored. Stories of minorities, real-world problems, women, and others remain to be told, and now is the right time to tell them.

There are too many problems facing our world today and plenty of opportunities for gaming to make an impact. Gaming has shown to be an excellent tool in education in anything from math and language to urban planning. With countless issues facing our world today like gender inequality, poverty, disease, water crisis, and others, now could be a great time for some clever designers to address these difficulties through a fun, interactive game.

In recent years some designers have stepped up to the plate to begin making these social impact games. By combining fun, knowledge, and a healthy amount of competition it's possible to convey a meaningful message on a pressing issue in our world, all while playing an engaging game. Social good in gaming is still pretty new, so I'd love to see a game with a good meaning also be fun as a holiday blockbuster.

While surfing around for some good examples on games with a mission, I found myself getting completely sidetracked by Darfur is Dying for a while. This game, funded by MTV Network, is strangely addicting and almost eerie -- if this game makes you nervous to make one simple move, then how bad is it really in Darfur? Games like this are on the right track to mixing fun, emotion, and a message, but there's still room for more messages and bigger games to be made.

Let's take the example of Wesley Kirinya in Kenya. Africa isn't exactly a hotspot for game studios, but Wesley had a story to tell and the ambition to make it. Between importing books and spending countless hours searching online for tutorials, he was able to make a game. His game.

Wesley may have set the bar pretty high when it comes to proving how ambitious one person can be to make a game, but there are still lots of stories to be told. In a broad category of lacking game representation, it's 2013 and there still are barely any female leading ladies. Lara Croft, Samus, Lightning, and Chun-Li don't have nearly enough sisters-in-arms as they should. Girls don't always want to just watch a movie - sometimes they want to become Lara Croft in her adventures.

There's clearly a demand for more leading ladies. A while back a father modded a Zelda game to make Link into a girl to make his daughter happier. Often times, the availability of a female protagonist can mean a much richer gaming experience, regardless of game genre or platform. There's plenty of stories of macho dudes blowing up aliens, but not enough telling a girl's story.

Long story short, now is a good time for change.

Stories and games don't even have to be complicated to make an impact, but they should be fun and engaging. Get Water! by Decode Global is a simple run-and-jump game that tells the story of a young girl named Maya and how she's pulled out of class to collect water far away for her village, all while proving to be addicting and exciting to play. Together with charity: water, Get Water! For India aims to help the non-profit bring clean water to 100 villages in Orissa, India. The game brings this real issue into fruition through what used to be an unconventional medium. Instead of reading a book about water scarcity in India and how girls and women are the ones bearing the burden of the task to gather water while missing valuable school time, you become Maya in her effort. The players become the ones asking the question "Why does Maya have to do this?" instead of simply being told information out of a book.

The resources, topics, and demand are all there. All the pieces are in place for aspiring game developers to set the bar for the social impact that a game can make on modern society. Whether you're fresh out of college and looking to make a change, or you're an ambitious youngster with high hopes, there are issues in this world that still need a hero to save them. Let the sword be your computer mouse, and let the shield be your game controller - it's time to use games to save the world.