Social Impact Games: Do They Work?

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BattleStorm and Macon Money Program Evaluation
Publication Date
Journalism & Media Innovation

Above: Data Visualization of two years of Macon Money-related events and interactions. Click for more.

In 2010, Knight Foundation funded two social impact games as pilot projects in two cities – Macon Money, in Macon Ga., and Battlestorm, in Biloxi, Miss.

Unlike past foundation support for digital games, these took place in real-time with real people in the real world and they supported ongoing efforts to tackle local issues. There is already an existing body of research about how digital games have the potential to improve learning and influence behavior. But less attention has been paid to the effects of real-world games – i.e., games that are played out in the physical world. Knight wanted to explore which aspects of real-world games were most effective in addressing community issues.

To learn about what worked, Cause Communications and Network Impact were brought on board to do comprehensive evaluations of both games, and, to communicate the findings in real-time over the course of the games and when final analysis was done.

Knight staff worked with the incoming evaluation data, with game designer Area/Code, and with each game’s community partners to blog about the games and what the foundation was learning. To help communicate key findings, Knight generated a series of materials:

MaconMoney – A game that brings people from different backgrounds together to strengthen the social fabric of the community while catalyzing economic impact.

Battlestorm – A game that promotes the importance of hurricane preparedness through activities focused on youth as leaders.

Summary of both Social Impact Games projects (Acrobat PDF)

Interested in the full evaluation reports with all the details?






Knightblog Blog posts and earlier articles:

"Can games change attitudes and behavior?" - Sept. 22, 2010 on Knight Blog

"Real-world games are fun…but do they work?" - May 10, 2011 on Knight Blog

"Hurricane preparedness through freeze tag? A new game could help the Gulf Coast prepare for upcoming hurricane season" - March 5, 2012 on Knight Blog

"Macon game wins 2011 FutureEverything Award for creative innovation in art, society and technology" - May 11, 2011 news release

"Impact of games on engaged communities illustrated, presented at Games 4 Change" - June 22, 2011 on Knight Blog 

"Update: In quest for community hurricane prep, Castaways win Battlestorm tournament" - May 26, 2011 on Knight Blog 

"Social game demonstrates importance of youth voices in community issues" - March 5, 2012 on Knight Blog




Projects discussed in this publication

Area/Code: Macon Money

To support the development and implementation of a game in Macon that uses an alternative form of local currency - Macon Money - to literally connect Macon residents to each other and to the College Hill Corridor in new ways


To support the development and implementation of a game in Biloxi to increase awareness and change habits towards disaster preparedness in an entertaining and informative way

Area/Code Entertainment

For the research and concept development of community-centric urban games in five Knight Communities

About our Journalism & Media Innovation focus area

Our goal at Knight Foundation is to preserve the best aspects of journalism and use innovation to expand the impact of information in the digital age.

About our Grant Assessments methodology

As part of our grant making process, program teams work with grantees to establish indicators that will be tracked to provide feedback on project implementation and outcomes. In certain cases, we also partner with grantees to conduct in-depth third-party evaluations to understand the effectiveness and impact of specific projects.