[Editor’s note: This post was written by Kris Herbst, Creative Manager at Ashoka’s Changemakers®.]
The holy grail for the Games for Change (G4C) movement is to harness the addictive pleasure of game playing for positive social change. G4C is a young movement, and there are still some who question whether games as tools for change can be taken seriously. But these detractors do not include former U.S. Vice President Al Gore, who gave the keynote speech at the 8th Annual Games for Change Festival, held last week in New York City.
Gore admitted that his own game-playing skills hadn’t progressed much since he mastered Pong, but he enthusiastically endorsed gaming as a “deeply immersive and engaging medium” that is so popular it “will produce an awareness among our political leaders that this is important to our civilization.”
Gore channeled the optimistic zeal of the game designers, social sector organizations, media mavens, and funders that had gathered for the conference. Attendees included the world’s largest social game developer, Zynga, which engages 250 million users monthly with games like Farmville and Mafia Wars, and which shares Gore’s optimism.
While the company’s mission is “connecting the world through games,” said Prof. Laura Pincus Hartman, Zynga’s director of external partnerships, “our real mission is transforming the world through games.” She proudly announced that Zynga’s players have raised more than $10 million since October 2009 for international citizen sector organizations that are tackling issues such as clean water, hunger, education, and providing relief to disaster survivors in Haiti and Japan.