Many are quick to critique social media as being a giant time waste, something incredibly self-indulgent, and even slightly creepy. We have all heard these arguments before. An interesting counterargument posits that social media can be used to increase social capital and even be used for purposes of social good. The same two arguments also swirl around the sphere of videogames as well. I can't tell you how many times my parents told me to turn off my Nintendo and go outside. So what happens when you smash social media, gaming, and social good all into one? We're finding new, innovative sites almost everyday.
You've probably heard of Kickstarter.com, a website that gives you your five minutes of fame explaining your dream or genius idea and lets people choose to help you achieve your goal. If the funds are not met by the due date, then none of the project gets funded. Crowdrise.com lets you start your own fundraising campaign for the charity of your choice and push it through social media sites. DonorsChoose.org is an educational charity that allows donors to choose to fund a variety of classroom projects and materials. Kiva.org works similar to Kickstarter, only it's focused on farmers in need and sustainable farming practices. The point of social media is to connect one another, and these websites are focused on making a deep, meaningful connection, and making a difference.
Social good can also be turned into a game. Don't believe me? Take a look at The Fun Theory. Routine, everyday activities are turned into games, and the results include safer driving habits, healthier lifestyle choices, and more sustainable consumer behaviors. Check out some of the videos, they are well worth their few minutes.
Jane McGonigal, Director of Game Research & Develoment at the Intstitute for the Future agrues that playing more videogames can save the world. Sound idealistic? Maybe. WeTopia is a Facebook game that turns players’ points into monetary donations for children’s charity projects. What if Farmville worked this way?
I am writing all of this after reading the article "Where Social Gaming Meets Social Good" that highlights a recent campaign by Toyota, a Facebook app called 100 Cars for Good.The app asks users to vote for one of five non-profits every day for 100 days, and a daily winner will be awarded a new set of wheels from Toyota the following day.
I have my own, semi-profound and possibly idealistic conclusions about what this all means, but I'd like to hear your own. Do you think this could lead to a paradigm shift? Is this a way of democratizing wealth and increasing general welfare? Or will this just blow over when the next big thing comes around?