When FarmVille Met Philanthropy

At OneVietnam and VTP, we love social media, philanthropy, and having fun. When any two of the three interersect (as in our iStory initiative), we’re ecstatic. When all three combine, we’re over the moon. That’s why we’re so excited to see what Nick Kristof and Games for Change have in store with what’s being touted as the humanitarian Farmville.

In an interview with FastCompany, Kristof, a New York Times columnist who seems to have an infinite capacity for compassion, spoke of the need to adapt to changing media platforms for social good.

“I think gaming might be the next big platform for news organizations and causes. There’s some snobbery about games. Some people think games are just ‘what teenagers do’ or that they are too fun to be worthy of our attention. But there are a lot of people who spend a lot of time playing games online, so we in the news business would do well to think about how we can use games to attract eyeballs. My wife [Sheryl WuDunn] and I are doing a TV documentary of our book Half the Sky, but we’re also creating a Facebook game as part of it,” he said.

On the game itself, Kristof explained, “It will be vaguely analogous to FarmVille. You’ll have a village, and in order to nurture this village, you’ll have to look after the women and girls in the village. Actions in the game will also have real-world effects. In other words, there will be schools and refugee camps that will benefit if you do well in the game. It will go live when the documentary debuts at the end of this year.”

We love how Kristof is merging social media and humanitarian aid, but we’re also particularly invested in what Asi Burak, the co-president of Games for Change, had to say to Mashable:

“Nick and Sheryl’s ideas are perfectly aligned with what we want to see moving forward—breaking the perception that games are only entertainment… Most of the people who pick up his book or turn on PBS or even read The New York Times are already converted. What he’s hoping to do with social media and gaming is to go to the people who aren’t converted and engage them in a very sensible way.”

Preaching to the choir is an obstacle many nonprofits have to overcome when they try to garner new interest in their organization’s mission, so developing a product that can concurrently engage a disinterested audience and raise funds is quite a feat. It’s usually only after you’ve effectively engaged an audience that you can begin turning casual observers into changemakers.  We’re glad to see this happening.

And just think, if your boss catches you playing the game after it comes out, you can quietly point out that you weren’t wasting time, you were taking a moment of your day to do some good for the developing world.*


*Obviously we’re joking. We’re totally not liable if you get reprimanded for trying to pull a stunt like that.


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