Gaming for Good

Mobile games as instigators of social change - A guestblog by Nathan Masyuko
The title of this blog sounds like an oxymoron and I will forgive you for taking a few minutes to try and figure out what good really comes from games such as Call of Duty, Grand Theft Auto, Silent Hill or any of the multitude of violent, anti-hero games that fill up the shelves in games stores today.

However, I have good news for those parents out there who worry about such matters: There is a growing movement of game developers, social entrepreneurs and people in the industry who have focused on not just making games for profit, but are embedding life skills, knowledge and educationally relevant material into the whole game play experience.

Playing games has been part of human culture since before words were put on a page, and as I sit here 'typing' this blog on my laptop, rather than 'dictating' it out to a 'scribe' as he scribbles away on a sheet of papyrus, it only makes sense that the way people play would change and that a technological aspect would soon overtake playing outside with a ball and a bat.

Impact first
I am very fortunate to be working for a company called Afroes, whose primary goal simply states, “Impact First”. This means that we go through the process of identifying the issues that are facing society in our target market, which is the African youth.

We take it a step further by going to meet with the young people, subject experts and relevant bodies that are apart of providing the solution and learn as much as we can about the message before we gamify (we throw this term around a lot at the office) it and deliver it back in a playable format.

Our games have dealt with Gender Based Violence (Moraba) which was developed in partnership with the UN Women for their “Unite campaign against gender violence”. Other games include Champ Chase which deals with children protection rights and was developed in partnership with Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund and more recently  Haki: Shield & Defend which won a grant from the Kenya ICT Board in its innovative approach to educate youth of their rights (Haki is the Swahili word for rights or justice). The first installment of Haki deals with Environmental rights and shares the simple message that, “Saving trees makes you a hero!”

Currently we are working on developing several games that will deal with financial literacy as well as one on peace & tolerance that we hope will help to influence young men in Kenya to think through their choices leading to the next general election to be held in March 2013.

Gaming for Good - Not an Oxymoron
So gaming for good is not an oxymoron in my opinion but a new solution to a growing need and by meeting this need we aim to inspire positive mindsets in the youth that are ready to develop a collective attitude to working with those around them to improve themselves, their circumstances and build their nations. Our goal is to inspire a generation that will lead Africa out of poverty, disease and strife.

If this sounds good, you like what we do and want to learn more, you can check out our website www.afroes.com. We’d love to hear from you and have a conversation on where we should take mobile tech and how we can use it to change the world, using mobile games.

Testing our game Moraba in South Africa