Nonprofits & Gaming: Playing Your Way to More Funds, More Volunteers, and Solving the World's Problems

What if video games could change the world? They already are. Nonprofits around the globe are using online games not to only educate the public, but to get donations and supporters – and even help find cures for diseases.

Why are games important?

Battle for the Bay

Battle for the Bay

Games "...may prove to be a key resource for solving some of our most pressing real-world problems," according to game designer Jane McGonigal in The Wall Street Journal. "When we play, we... have a sense of urgent optimism. We believe whole-heartedly that we are up to any challenge, and we become remarkably resilient in the face of failure." Gamers are exactly the kinds of people you want helping your organization succeed.

In his keynote address for South by Southwest Interactive in 2011, Seth Priebatsch of SCVNGR demonstrated how game mechanics can motivate real-world action by distributing different-colored cards to the audience, giving them rules (no talking, no moving from your seat) then having them exchange cards until each row had the same color. A crowd of 2,000 accomplished this in less than 3 minutes.

Priebatsch even proposed how school could be improved by adding better game mechanics than those that already exist: for example, having a points system that allows you to "level up" rather than our current grading-average system, and building in an honor system to eliminate cheating (as Princeton has done, with huge success).

How can nonprofits use game elements to promote their cause?

Gamers are already helping tackle real-world problems, just by playing games. 57,000 gamers have outperformed supercomputers in the task of folding proteins in new ways that could lead scientists to cures for Alzheimer's, cancer and more. And 19,000 players have helped improve food security, increase access to clean energ,y and end poverty in more than 130 countries with EVOKE, an online game created for the World Bank Institute that's resulted in real-world solutions for key problems.

Even if your cause doesn't require that level of interaction, here are some other ideas for games to think about...

Continue reading at NTEN Connect.