By Esha Chhabra Monday, Aug. 13, 2012
Gaming is more than just a pastime for teenage boys nowadays.
The Knight Foundation and San Francisco gaming company Zynga are delving into digital games that are meant not just for entertainment, but also for social impact. And their audience is widening. Recent studies suggest that adult women represent a greater portion of the game-playing population than teenage boys.
Mayur Patel, vice president of strategy and assessment at the Knight Foundation, says that games have transformed, becoming a "pervasive" part of our culture, with more than 72 percent of American households gaming at home on the computer or with video games.
That's why games also have become a new outlet for social enterprises and nonprofits to channel their causes. Sheryl WuDunn, co-author of "Half the Sky" with husband and New York Times columnist Nick Kristof, says the decision to use a digital game for Half the Sky Foundation, which raises funds and awareness for women's empowerment globally, has been dictated by demand.
"Half the Sky is trying to meet the public on their terms and to reach them where they liked to be reached," she noted.
Playing for nonprofits
That means via social media for many gamers. San Francisco social-games maker Zynga has successfully woven digital games into Facebook, with popular titles such as "FarmVille." Now it's doing the same with games that have a philanthropic or social edge. It's created a new branch of the company, Zynga.org, that focuses on just that - working with nonprofits to help them craft a suitable online game for their cause.
Knight Foundation supports transformational ideas that promote quality journalism, advance media innovation, engage communities and foster the arts. We believe that democracy thrives when people and communities are informed and engaged. For more, visit www.knightfoundation.org.