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Half The Sky: Games For Change In The Developing World
A new series of games built for primitive cell phones hopes to make lessons about health fun for players in the world’s poorest regions. It certainly beats reading a pamphlet.
The idea that games can do good is rapidly gaining steam. Just in the past few months, we’ve covered I Heart Jellyfish, a game that rewards players for keeping a healthy heartbeat; WeTopia, a FarmVille-like game that easily allows players to contribute to nonprofits; and Global Giving, which turns aid evaluation into a game.
All of these games have one major thing in common: They’re directed toward users in the developed world. Not so with the games being developed by women’s rights movement Half the Sky and nonprofit gaming organization Games For Change. Instead of focusing on those of us equipped with smartphones and easy Internet access, these games—which focus on pregnancy education, intestinal worm prevention, and women’s rights—will home in on the millions of people outfitted with basic cell phones.
The gaming initiative is an outgrowth of the Half the Sky women’s movement, which is in turn based on the book Half the Sky by Nicholas Kristoff and Sheryl WuDunn. “Before the book was completed, they were interested in figuring out new ways of engaging audiences around content that for many people would feel difficult and depressing,” explains Michelle Byrd, co-president of Games for Change.
In 2009, Half the Sky and Games For Change came up with the idea to make games for the developing world that influence behavior change. “We were looking at creating games that aren’t necessarily about raising awareness in the West but are really about reaching the women and girls that are the subject of the stories [in Half the Sky],” says Byrd.
Games for Change is currently working on three USAID-sponsored, Half the Sky-based games. Worm Attack, a “tower defense“-style game (pictured above), teaches users about the perils of intestinal worms—and how the in-game arsenal of pills can keep those worms at bay. The pregnancy simulation game 9 Minutes (below) rewards users for making good decisions during gameplay, like visiting the local clinic and staying away from alcohol. And Family Values, a so-called “interactive mobile soap opera” for teen girls, takes on topics like family planning and young marriage. The games are playable on low-end Java-enabled phones (the kinds of cell phones that were popular in the U.S. about eight years ago).
All of these games are intended to teach lessons that might be ignored in other educational settings. “I can only imagine how boring 9 Minutes could look in leaflet form,” says Byrd.
The Half the Sky games will all be completed by June, at which point they will be tested and deployed in India, Kenya, and Tanzania—locations covered in the Half the Sky book where USAID already has initiatives. If the games are well-received, Games for Change will likely continue its work on games for the developing world. After all, just because someone lacks an Angry Birds-capable smartphone doesn’t mean they won’t enjoy some quality (and educational) mobile gaming.
VIA: FAST CO.EXIST
'Draw Something' showing no signs of slowing down
- 50 million people have downloaded OMGPOP’s Draw Something source
» That’s about a million a day since its launch in February, keeping the ultra-popular game number one among paid apps in the App Store. The press release also noted that over 6 billion drawings have been created, with “latrine” being the least popular word to draw. Suddenly, the $210 million that Zynga spent on the studio last month doesn’t sound so high, does it?
Brentford vs Southend Betting Preview
Brentford and Southend face each other in an FA Cup third round replay tonight and Brentford are looking good to win. Bookies have given odds of 4/5 on League One’s Brentford winning while the best available on League Two Southend is 4/1. The winner of the match will face Chelsea in the fourth round and both teams will be eager to test their skills against the Premier League… Read more »
What Does the NGP Mean for Apple's Position in the Mobile Gaming Market?
I just watched the video from the first demo of Sony’s newly announced (and long rumored) successor the PSP, known as the NGP. To fans of the PSP it must look like an appealing, modern piece of hardware, something to update their dated devices to this decade’s tech. The sheer number of features included on this bad boy makes my mouth water, but at the same time raises in me questions about the direction of mobile gaming as a whole. While the PSP-faithful will surely upgrade for the sake of remaining current, what does this promising technology offer developers and most importantly, should Apple take note?
The fate of the mobile gaming world has just been shaken up again by this new salvo from Sony, landing them smack dab in the middle of this growing turf war. As connected devices become more and more omnipresent, the battle for mindshare and dollars is heating up, with Apple especially skyrocketing in popularity over just a short period. While the latest from Nintendo is out in the open and many details of Apple’s iPad mkII and iPhone 5 are floating about, what predictions can be made in this rapidly evolving market?
State of the Market
I fall into what I would imagine is a common pattern among this generation of gamers—I started with a GameBoy Color and lived with Nintendo through my youth, playing GBA and DS in all the inappropriate places I could have—then hopped onto the iPhone platform in 2007. What I realized as I downloaded my first game from the App Store, and what we all know now, is that Apple’s pervasive iOS ecosystem is a legitimate contender in the handheld gaming space. By approaching their competitors from the MP3 and phone markets, Apple essentially allowed their new platform to tap into a huge wealth of new customers. Developers then flocked to the platform, its huge installed base and instant, centralized distribution system encouraging a whole new regime of mobile gaming.
I believe that in the wake left behind Apple’s huge leap forward, there has been a fundamental change in the hardware, and therefore the games, that people WANT in their hands, on the go, all the time. Clearly this trend has affected the design of the NGP—the touchscreen says it all. In a time when even our old friend the Blackberry is catching up by tacking on a touch screen, shouldn’t your PSP? Sure, Nintendo got out ahead of that one with the DS, but what does the NGP signal for the market in the years to come?
There is no monopoly on Innovation
From purely a hardware perspective the NGP is highly impressive: the possibility of a quad-core CPU powering a 5” OLED screen right in your hands is going to be leaps and bounds ahead of anything Nintendo or Apple currently have coming. As a company known for building powerful consoles, Sony holds up in that respect. But generally Sony is not known for driving innovation, that’s something typically left to Nintendo or Apple. That, most of all, is why I find the specs of the NGP to be so awe inspiring. The sheer geeky joy I get from imagining the games created for this platform just titillates me.
What I mean to address primarily is not the hardware itself but the innovation displayed by finally implementing a rear touch-screen on their device. The ability to include such a technology has been around for years and now Sony has finally embraced the technology—in a huge way, nonetheless. Including it as a feature on their new flagship handheld, in a mobile gaming space where Apple is steadily sucking in consumers and Nintendo remains largely unaffected thanks to their younger audience, shows that Sony has stepped up to the plate and is planning to challenge their newest competitor at their own game. The NGP is more than Sony’s entry into the world of touch gaming, what this move represents for Sony is an attempt to change the game itself, moving the battle from the world of hardware innovation, in which Apple has reigned supreme as of late, to a battlefield where Sony has a potential royal flush: developers.
Use what you’ve got: Developers
Apple has thus far made huge inroads into mobile gaming where others have failed: they have gotten their devices in more pockets than anyone else. The factor that will end up winning the war, though, is not the hardware but the games. Apple’s innovative new input methods certainly help, but what has contributed to iOS’s gaming success most of all is the revolution in casual gaming. The continued success of games like Angry Birds or Doodle Jump shows developers and consumers alike that Apple has a winning formula, one which others like Microsoft are trying to replicate. For instance, the Windows Phone 7 platform does show promise with its similar caliber of games, even drawing on Microsoft’s Xbox developers, but the platform is virtually identical to iOS in most respects—there certainly aren’t any WP7 games that couldn’t exist on iOS, the hardware is after all very similar. Even the integration of Xbox Live has not made much of a lasting impact for Microsoft. Of course, it’s not like anyone plays iPhone games for the social networking (Game Center, I’m looking at you: Get useful please).
In every sense, then, I think the fact that Sony is approaching the NGP from this innovative angle means that it is serious about challenging Apple for consumers’ hearts and dollars. An example: nestled among the list of games in devlopment for the NGP is Flight Control by Firemint. What exactly does that mean? The crossover of a casual developer for iOS (and to be fair, virtually every other platform) potentially means that Sony will begin this round of the battle on equal footing with the iOS behemoth. This sort of phone to console crossover among developers, in addition to the PSP’s loyal base of fans, certainly gives Sony a fighting chance.
In fact, what I think is the most important news out of the NGP announcement, and what I think gives Sony the greatest advantage over Apple and virtually anyone else, is the list of exclusive titles the NGP will be sporting. I was actually pretty floored when I heard that titles like Uncharted, Littlebigplanet, and Resistance would be coming to the mobile space. I thought for a second how cool that would be, just in general, but then realized that I won’t be able to play those games on my iPhone. That realization was in fact the impetus for me to write this article. I find the possibility of a truly competitive, modern, game franchise laden, dedicated gaming console coming to invade our pockets to be an electrifying possibility, one that I would welcome with open arms.
The impact that this ends up having will depend on the details like price of course, but I think it’s high time Apple takes notice that its competitive advantage in the mobile gaming space is not exclusive by any means. Factors that gave Apple’s mobile gaming presence its start, like its touchscreens, app store and weight in our pocket at all times can and will be replicated by competitors soon enough. I can foresee a device like the NGP poaching some of Apple’s potential gamers in the near future, but what Apple really needs to watch out for is the NGP2 which makes calls, comes loaded with vanilla Android 2.5, and boasts specs that will put anything Motorola, HTC, or Apple has ever built to shame. It would be silly to bet against Apple in the mobile space today, I’m sure they have something up their sleeve, but if some sort of stopgap isn’t introduced soon, developers and their loyal fans may begin a shift away from our endlessly innovative iPhones towards a more content-rich gaming platform.
1) When is the real PSP Phone coming? Why hasn’t it been announced yet? (I feel that Sony would have announced it alongside the NGP if they knew what they were doing. I’m a little worried that some sort of botchjob Xperia nonsense is going to kill their chance at uniting Android and their loyal PSP fans)
2) What can Apple do to encourage exclusivity among developers similar to Sony’s high budget game franchises? (While they already have a great number of exclusive mobile games, most are due simply to the lack of a worthy competitor)
3) Can Apple turn a focus on gaming into anything other than catering to a niche crowd? Is there some greater mobile gaming revolution to be had when all smartphones can play games as graphically intensive as, for example, the Uncharted demo shown at the NGP press conference?
So I’m in the process of trying to expand into mobile gaming and need some help figuring out what the best route is.
Currently I’ve got a desktop (which might as well be from the stone age), and a cell phone with limited functionality, and so I’m looking to upgrade. The options seem to be as follows:
I know very little about tech and computing so you’ll have to bear with me and correct me where you can. As far as I can tell the types and quantity of gaming I could do on a netbook would be limited. So while it would be the most practical for trying to blog and stay up-to-date, I’m assuming my options as far as playing indie PC games and free to play stuff would be next to nil.
The tablet would be awesome, and about the same price as a netbook, but I’m also leery that because it’s still such a new technology there will be a lot of quick advances, and that anything I purchase now won’t just be obsolete in a year, but be clunky and obnoxious by comparison.
Still, if I were to go that route, iPad or other? iOS or Android? I’m really particular about my controls, and after seeing the sweet joystick add-ons for the iPad I was thinking that might be the best way to enjoy mobile gaming. Also, which system has the best apps? Which do you think will have them in the future? iOS seems to have the best right now, but with Google pushing Android to open source, maybe that will be the platform of choice in the coming years?
Finally phones. A small and sleek iPhone seems like the best way to go, even if the voice/text/data usage plans would come out to a hefty monthly fee. Are the controls manageable? I’ve not gotten the chance to try them out yet. If I went the Android route, do smartphones have alright playability? Or are they just not made for gaming?
Thanks for any help or insight you guys can offer.