How games can aid world peace

How games can aid world peace
Will Freeman

By Will Freeman

July 15th 2013 at 10:00AM

Charitable outfit Playmob encourages developers of every kind to embrace Peace One Day

[This feature was published in the July 2013 edition of Develop magazine, which is available through your browser and on iPad.]

Charity platform provider and former developer Playmob has called on games makers to consider their titles for supporting the global Peace One Day initiative.

Peace One Day is a not-for-profit charity body that organises the September 21st event of the same name, which strives to promote and install world peace through a coordinated effort on a global scale. The initiative sees involvement from those in fields such as education, music, business, film, sport, dance, art and, for the first time this year, games.

“Peace One Day is a global UN-backed day in September, and it’s basically about promoting peace,” confirmed Jude Ower, CEO of Playmob, speaking with Develop.

“Last year it got in front of about 280 million people, and this year it hopes to reach about 600 million people. There’s a whole bunch of activity that goes on around it like a 24 hour live-streamed Youtube concert, there’s loads of celebrity involvement, and lots of corporate activity related to it.”

As part of that drive, Playmob has set up its own element named Peace Games in conjunction with Peace One Day’s organisers.  Playmob is calling on developers to run campaigns as part of the build up the September event, to promote peace though video games.

“When we looked at Peace One Day last year and we got talking with Jeremy Gilley who founded the initiative, we were totally shocked that no games developers had got involved. It was especially surprising considering the opportunity for developers, and the fact that involvement is a great news story of the entire industry.”

CHARITISATION

London outfit Playmob provides a platform for partnering developers with charities, with a view to promoting each philanthropic body’s cause, raising cash and extending the reach of a given game.

And according to Ower, almost any video game, even long past launch, has the potential to be ‘charitised’.

“Making a game charitable is fairly applicable to all games,” she stated. “I think the only thing is that working with some of the really big global charities, some of them are a lot more wary about what games they might be placed in. But a lot of charities are so focused on raising money, they are open minded, and understand that a game with violent themes doesn’t mean it’s played by violent players or made by violent people.”

Playmob’s platform includes an API that tracks in-game events, be they a transaction or an action, such as downloading an item, and converts those events into an impact on good causes. And, says Ower, there’s already ample numbers of games, and in-game items that happen to be perfect for numerous charities.

“I do feel that there’s a game for every charity and vice versa,” she said.

Developer’s interested in getting involved in Peace Games need to act fast.

“There’s still time for developers to get involved, certainly,” confirmed Ower.

“Ideally, July is the perfect time to make clear they want to be part of it. They can pick a specific project under Peace One Day, so they could support a charity such as an educational, food or health-related project. Then it would be a case of doing the integration and picking the dates for the run up to Peace One Day this September.”

And according to Ower, there is, beyond the all-important matter of the pursuit of world peace and raising money for charity, plenty of other reasons that games studios should consider letting their games support such a drive.

“It’s about increasing engagement with your player base, which is something all developers these days are trying to do,” Ower explained. “There’s a tonne of tools out there that are focused on acquisition of new players, but then how do you monetise them? That’s about engaging with your player-base, and by introducing a charity element, you’re more likely to get people spending money, whether they’re new spenders or just spending more.

WHO SHARES WINS

Ower is also sure developers can increase the lifetime value of their games, get users playing for longer, and sharing their experiences more readily.

“Essentially what we’re doing is mirroring what’s happening offline as well, with physical product and cause marketing. We’ve pulled together stats that show that, for example, 92 per cent of mothers and 85 per cent of ‘millennials’ would ‘love’ to buy a product of which a portion of the sales goes to support a cause or social issue. The same percentage would also switch to brands that use cause marketing.”

Ower points out that with physical product, consumers are increasingly aware of supply chains, business ethics and issues like wages and working conditions in distant countries; evident through the popularity of organised social movements like Fair Trade. And, says the CEO, the same concerns and scrutiny are now directed at digital products.

“Charity involvement can make your product stand up in that way,” said Ower. “Furthermore, it’s all about brand thinking. If you provide a game that has charity elements it’s also going to make a player feel good, and that’s important. The same psychology around giving to charity being rewarding can apply to what makes your game is rewarding. And, most importantly, it raises money for charity that’s really needed.”

A number of games developers are already committed to Peace Games with new and already available titles. F84 Games’ Survival Run with Bear Grylls on iOS and Android lets players purchase an IAP boat that will give an African or Indian family water for ten years, in conjunction with Global Angels.

Meanwhile Playrise Digital’s new title Baby Nom Nom is supporting SOS Children by sharing a percentage of download sales with the charity, and Playdemic is launching campaigns in Village Life, that will encourage players to share game actions that have a charitable impact.

And if Peace Games is too soon for some studios, Ower is confident there will be numerous other opportunities to work with charities in the future.

“Peace Games is a really great showcase of what Playmob, developers and charities can do together, but we’ve also got a whole series of other events happening throughout the year, so every single month there’s various global events like Earth Hour, World Hunger Day and World Water Day, and far smaller and even comedy-based charity days. There’s always ways games developers can help charities.”

Those interested in involvement can find out more at www.playmob.com.

What is Playmob?

Playmob is a studio, a platform, and perhaps just as much a way of thinking about linking games and charity.

The London studio itself started out as a relatively conventional development company. It began making games some five years ago, pulling on CEO Jude Ower’s experience crafting titles focused on training, education and social impact. Work with Shell, IBM and even The Whiteouse came in, but Ower longed for more.

“It was a business model that was growing sustainably, but it wasn’t really high impact enough for me,” she explains.

“I think the big changing point for the studio was when charities started getting in touch and asking us to build games to teach consumers about their organisation while raising money at the same time.”

That was three years ago. A year later Playmob decided to pivot its entire business model to become a platform company. Around the same time Zynga had done its first campaign to raise money for Haiti following the earthquake. It raised $1.5 million in five days, and Ower was convinced there was potential for building a framework that would connect developers with charities. So she and her team did just that.

“Our platform enables games players to support the causes they care about through their favourite games, so it’s really about a whole new level of player engagement,” explains Ower. And it offers developers a way to get players to spend more money, it offers an increase in the life time value of a player, and a way to make content more interesting in terms of players sharing their content.”

The way it does that is by offering studios a way of getting a charity campaign up and running, handling partnering with organisations, making the likes of IAP applicable to fundraising, and handling the notoriously intricate legal and administrative process charities must today undertake. Studios take out a contract with Playmob, which then takes out a contract itself with the partner charity. The system claims to be applicable almost globally, and allows the developer to pass through the potential minefield that is charity law with relative ease.

“There’s a minimal impact on the game itself, and we knew that was important from our time making games ourselves,” continues Ower. “Simply, the way our tools work is just one line of code needs implementing into an item for sale in a game. It’s really very easy. Essentially it’s a really low impact, light integration, and it’s a RESTful API, which attaches to the item that is sold so we can track transparently how many items are sold and how much money has been raised.”

The process can be implemented at the launch of a new game, or even post launch, which should make Playmob’s offering all the more appealing to philanthropically minded developers.