gaming to change the world

Virtual Goods Summit & Pro Social Application Ideas

Posted on July 5, 2007. Filed under: Conferences of Interest, gaming to change the world, MyNation, virtual goods |

Back in June Susan Wu produced the first ever Virtual Goods Summit. Purveyors and those interested in getting into the business of virtual goods should have checked it out.

Here are a few round ups:

marks.dk – …The key point would be that they don’t buy an object. They buy an emotion.

Virtual World News – Liveblogging the Virtual Goods Summit
GigaOm – ..Three Rings’ CEO Daniel James on Puzzle Pirates, a casual MMO: “We do about $350,000 a month in revenue, of which $250,000 is virtual currency sales.”

Thoughts

On Facebook, you can send your friends “gifts”. Some are free but others you have to buy. Meez offers a lot of free accessories for your avatar, but you have to pay for the really cool stuff. The same goes within other social networking sites like Club Penguin, Neopoets, and Gaia Online.

The Kids are using virtual goods more and more to express themselves, and are willing to pay for it (or you know, get their parents to pay for it). Person to person virtual goods auctions happen all the time, often causing controversy over who actually “owns” what.

MTV has been cashing in on the growing interest in virtual goods for a some time now. Members of Virtual Hills and Virtual Laguna Beach can dress their avatars in branded clothing, and then get their hands on the real things via the MTV store.

All very exciting, but I am more interested in the the following:

– prosocial applications of virtual goods

– how virtual goods and currencies will change social networking habits and behaviors

Some Ideas for ProSocial Applications of Virtual Goods/Currencies

* Rebuild and Contribute aka MyNation

Save the rain forest. Save the whales. Save Darfur. How many young people truly participate in the causes they claim to support? This isn’t a judgment as much as a leading question 🙂 Piggybacking (or perhaps partnering with?) The Sims franchise, and on the mini dictator in all of us, what if you could rebuild a country in virtual space while making actual change in the real world?

Imagine if 2,000 people were “running” Darfur. Each time they purchased virtual goods such as additional weapons, medical supplies, vehicles, etc. a portion of the cost would be donated to agencies that provide real assistance to Darfur. Darfur is Dying is mtvU’s game for change about the genocide in the Darfur region of Sudan. In it, no matter what choice you make you end up dying. You then have the option to learn about ways to take action, which include donating funds, sending a message to the U.S. government, and joining the movement.

This is a great way to combine gaming, activism, and outreach. However, it is limited in its applications. You are a sole person with no way of receiving feedback from other players, or any way to actually create change through your gaming. What if you could join forces with other players – build coalitions, share resources, etc.? What if celebrities endorsed this kind of gaming, game bloggers kept up on its activities, and news outlets highlighted the real world results of collective gaming for change? What if?

If we built games around my MyNation theory, collective action could result in millions of dollars donated in the process of increasing your score. Building a better virtual nation could actually help the real one.

If something like this already exists, great. If not, it should.

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