There is a recent trend towards the gamification of real-world social issues.
The basic idea is that by playing certain games, you can transform lives in the real-world. An example is Raise the Village, where users create and develop a virtual African village on their mobile phones. For every real purchase of goods like mosquito nets, food, soap and so on within the game, the developers send a real-world version of those goods to a real-village in Uganda
I came acoss the above example and a few others recently in a book titled, Global Civil Society 2012: Ten Years of Critical Reflection (edited by Mary Kaldor, Henrietta L. Moore and Sabine Selchow)
Other SERIOUS GAMES include:
3rd World Farmer. Confront the frustrations of poverty, trade and conflict as an African farmer in this 'classic' serious game. www.3rdworldfarmer.com (free)
Against All Odds. The UNHCR- sponsored simulation that let's you experience life as a refugee. www.playagainstallodds.com
Darfur is Dying. Experience a 'faint glimpse' of the dangers of life as a displaced person in Darfur through your cartoon avatar; engage in real-world activist challenges. www.dafurisdying.com (free)
Evoke. 'An urgent call to innovation.' Funded by the World Bank, Evoke helps players around the globe become 'social innovators' and share their world changing ideas through the online community. www.urgentevoke.com (free)
FreeRice. A quiz game that rewards correct answers with real-world donations to the United Nations World Food Programme. http://freerice.com (free)
PeaceMaker. Solve the Middle East conflict as either the Israeli Prime Minister or the Palestinian President. www.peacemakergame.com (free demo)
Now, what about SERIOUS GAMES indegenous to Africa (Nigeria being my case in point)?
During a chat with a boss at the Co-Creation hub, a social innovation centre, I discovered some related on-going projects which are aimed at stimulating social change and development.
An example is "Efiko" - an interactive cheap quiz system developed locally with the collaboration of school teachers, given to students at the beginning or end of term.
iWatch is another application designed for citizens, where crowdsourced information about developments in governments are used to promote transperency and accountability, among others. This is not a serious game per se, yet relevant.
I am currently brainstorming the possiblity of using Serious Games to transform the culture of deliberation among citizens - thus improving the practice of democracy. However, this raises a lot of theoretical questions.
Some consider it utopian to attempt to link activities online (or using any technology) to impact on non-digital (or real) life (see Slacktivism and Clicktivism). I particularly like Evegeny Morozov's example in the Net Delusion where he said, "If a tree falls in the forest and everyone tweets about it, it may not be the tweets that moved it." (The Net Delusion: How Not to Liberate the World).
"The serious games industry is young, and the jury is still out on the degree to which games will, in fact, 'transform lives' in the real world" (Global Civil Society, 2012). I however, still consider this idea seriously worth critically thinking through, albeit not as a stand-alone strategy to get the citizens talking. This is why I have logged it on this weblog.