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Many educational institutions, for example, would appreciate access to enterprise-level server technology for multiplayer gaming. In Sun’s case, a group of students from Singapore were able to take stripped-down, early access material from the site and create a mobile-to-PC game.
With all of the potential in new technology just beginning to be realized, the important question remains—how to merge these technologies with the real world? Melissinos noted “we’ve never had a model to build on; we’re trying to see what works.” Caveat? The barrier to entry in game development and design is greater than with other forms of interactive content loosely considered “games”—it’s easier, for example, to upload an image to Flickr or a video to YouTube than it is to create a game. In light of this, the phenomenon of toolset availability for the purpose of building addons becomes increasingly popular.
The fact remains, according to Melissinos, that “Everyone needs to get involved in the political landscape around the industry. Politicians want to enact laws because it’s the cool thing to do... we run the very real risk of having laws enacted that impact freedom of speech, that really can harm a medium that is just coming into its own. It’s vital as an industry that we get involved in that discussion, because someone will make the decision for us if we don’t.”
Most importantly of all, Melissinos reminded—the messages that a nonprofit may have must resonate with the core audience using the technology to begin with. As an example, he described a game called Steer Madness, by Veggie Games of Vancouver, Canada. Calling it “GTA-meets-Chicken Run,” he described gameplay wherein a steer escaping the slaughterhouse gores the offending workers and attempts to free the other animals, in a backdrop peppered with pro-vegetarian and vegan themes.
“Regardless of whether or not you agree,” Melissinos said, “you had a game that was entertaining enough that you were at least listening. And that’s really the key—bringing the message forward in a non-threatening way will get people actually listening; being in a better position to understand.”
Another plus for nonprofits in the game world is that the technology, at the same time it increases the accessibility of the message to consumers, will also help organizations track metrics in new and increasingly detailed ways, perhaps by judging the actions of the players in-game.
His advice to nonprofits wishing to enter the gaming arena? “Don’t make games because it’s the cool thing of the moment. Make games because you want to make good games, and the message will come.”