#G4C14: How Social Games Generate Social Good


Popular social games such as Mafia Wars, Farmville and CityVille offer much more than entertainment for millions of gamers – they also offer opportunities to save lives around the world.

That’s why Direct Relief President and CEO Thomas Tighe was invited to speak yesterday at the 11th annual Games for Change Festival, a three-day gaming event held in New York City that facilitates the creation and distribution of social impact games. Tighe participated in the panel “Designing for Impact: How Commercial Games Are a Platform for Engaging Players in Social Causes.”

With support from social gaming company, Zynga, gamers have provided $1.2 million in donations to Direct Relief by engaging its players in 25 separate campaigns that have generated small-scale gifts from over 250,000 people. By offering gamers the option to purchase virtual goods to gain an edge in game-play, Zynga is really offering an opportunity to give life-saving assistance through groups like Direct Relief.

“Games help [nonprofits] break through…and reach people in a way that’s deeply compelling,” said Tighe during Tuesday’s panel.

Beginning with support in the aftermath of the 2011 Japan earthquake and tsunami, Zynga has been a strong advocate of Direct Relief’s work over the past few years. Since Japan, the company has encouraged gamers to donate to responses such as Hurricane Sandy, the Oklahoma tornadoes, and most recently the Philippines typhoon. In addition to emergencies, it also engages players around campaigns to support Direct Relief’s ongoing work in areas such as childhood pneumonia.

Beyond garnering donations, the campaigns also help increase visibility of a nonprofit’s work.

“Consumers may discover a cause or an organization for the first time through a game, suggesting that the gaming business may have an increasing role to play in introducing consumers to philanthropy,” wrote Zynga Executive Director, Ken Weber, in a recent HuffingtonPost article.

Direct Relief is deeply grateful for the ongoing relationship with Zynga and its gamers, who have made a difference in the lives of people in need around the world.

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