Games can help effect social change, says publisher

Games can help effect social change, says publisher
Craig Chapple

By Craig Chapple

April 26th 2013 at 5:15PM

Global Gaming Initiative's Elizabeth Sarquis on how the industry can support charitable causes around the world

Mobile gaming publisher Global Gaming Initiative is launching a new mobile game to help make bicycles for people in Africa.

For each sale of its $0.99 game Sidekick Cycle, 50 per cent will go toward the World Bicycle Relief, which to date has assembled more than 120,000 locally-made speciality bikes to disaster victims, healthcare workers, students and entrepreneurs across Africa.

The game itself is a one-touch downhill biking game in which users must cycle through hazardous levels to deliver bikes to children in need.

Speaking to Develop, Global Gaming Initiative CEO Elizabeth Sarquis said the idea came about after her 14-year old son returned from working for a non-profit organisation in Ecuador called Free the Children.

After being convinced by her son to try and do something to help children in the country get into education, two years ago she dropped everything and started a self-funded mobile game publishing company in an effort to help enact change in Africa, despite no history in game development.

“What really got me motivated to figure out how to do that was when my son came home, he was 14 at the time, and he was working for a non profit in Ecuador called Free The Children,” said Sarquis.

“He went there for three weeks and basically helped build a school, and when he came back from there he was a completely different kid, as you can imagine. He was really impacted by living in this village and meeting these kids.

“And one of the things that really bothered him a lot, and he would always tell me over the next six months, he told me about this little boy who didn’t want to go to school. And to him that was like horrific, how could someone not want an education, that’s what’s going to help them change lives.

“He found out his reluctance to go to school was simply that he had to walk for three hours to get to school every morning and then he had to walk for three hours home after school, and once he got home he had to help his mum take care of his three siblings.”

As a result of two years of work and one cancelled game, which was deemed by the company as too poor to release despite having already invested time and money into the project, Saqruis and Global Gaming Initiative is set to release Sidekick Cycle on iOS and Android in June.

For every 387 downloads, one bike will be contributed to Africa to help a child get to school.

When asked whether this is something she felt other developers could do in some shape or form, Sarquis said she hoped some other developers would have room to donate some of their sales revenue to charitable causes.

“I would hope that they would care to yes, I think that there is room for that,” she said.

“I think if we could get more developers to do that it would effect a lot of social change.”

For more information on Global Gaming Initiative, visit the official website.