Board Games
Historically, many board game ideas come from an idea about social or moral issues. For example, Monopoly was designed to teach people about financial difficulties such as finding affordable rent and paying taxes. Board games also help people develop real-work skills such as creativity, the ability to plan and prepare and empathy. Board games can even teach social activism. By overcoming adversity in board games such as Peacemaker, players grab hold of newfound mental tools that help them achieve success for their own causes. One truly noteworthy cause that some board games focus on is global poverty.

Across the World

Poverty is defined as living on less than $1.90 a day. The United States falls in the lower quarter of countries in terms of its poverty level. Most of the countries in the top quarter having the highest poverty levels have percentages in poverty that are more than 50%. South Sudan has the highest poverty level of 82.3% with Equatorial Guinea following close behind.

The highest poverty levels are located in Africa. For example, sub-Saharan Africa is the poorest region in the world. Of the 430 million people living there, 40% are recorded as living in extreme poverty as of 2018. Countries with the resources to help others have come together to form organizations such as the United Nations, World Bank and the European Nations to help these people in need.

Playing a board game helps people develop the skills and empathetic mindset to support organizations that are already addressing these issues. There are several examples of board games that even go as far as to address global poverty and social inequality specifically.

Development Monopoly

Multiple versions of Monopoly have undergone development. Development Monopoly is one version that focuses on raising awareness of poverty levels and inequality in developing countries. The board game revolves around the idea that not all individuals are born with the same privileges and opportunities. Players must negotiate and compromise depending upon their socio-economic group.

In original studies at universities in Belgium, students from different nationalities such as European, Asian and Latin American had the assignment of developing rules for Monopoly based on developing countries. Each time a new game began, the rules changed. In the second game, the players designed the rules around wealthier countries. The diversity of the nationalities involved forced the students to learn more about their fellow players and the poverty issues facing their homelands.

Players received salaries as a percentage. For example, a rich player may receive an 80% higher salary than a poor player. The advantages given to the rich and middle class allowed them to dominate and control the poor. The board game revealed that the rich players did not seem to mind taking advantage of the poor. After the games were completed, students were then asked how the rules of the game could be made to be pro-poor.

The Perspectivity Challenge

The Perspectivity Collective has also launched multiple poverty-related games. Notably, the Perspectivity Collective is a partnership of a dozen professionals who have lived and worked in areas such as Europe, the Middle East, Africa and more with polarized groups. The Collective’s goal is to foster social innovation and teach people how to navigate the difficulties and complexities of life.

One solution it developed is called the Perspectivity Challenge. The players play on one board that represents the world and navigate the game based on various challenges. These challenges focus on issues related to climate, food, human security, decision-making and more. The Food Challenge focuses on malnutrition and food availability and affordability, which are poverty related to the issue of global poverty. The goal of The Food Challenge is to develop and manage a country that can feed an entire population. Each player represents a different country and all must work together in order to prevent starvation.

This board game addresses the poverty issues of starvation, malnutrition and being able to feed one’s family. Players learn about the importance of world collaboration. It takes every country being invested in ending world hunger to be successful. This game is offered in multiple languages and has been played all around the world in countries such as the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, the United States, China, Cambodia, Vietnam, Thailand, India, Singapore and Manila. People at the World Bank in Washington even played it to help leaders learn collaboration and planning skills.

Ending Global Poverty

While amidst a continuing fear of the recent pandemic and a newfound necessity to find fun ways to entertain at home, a board game is a great way to educate people about the issue of poverty. Board games will always appeal to large masses of all kinds of people across the globe and can be used to reignite empathy for those around us who are struggling.

– Tara Boehringer
Photo: Unsplash

gamification of philanthropy While the internet has brought dramatic change to the ways people live their daily lives, it has also opened many doors for businesses to fulfill their corporate social responsibility. Alipay’s in-app game program “Ant Farm” is an excellent example of successful gamification of philanthropy by businesses.

Alipay, China’s largest third-party online payment platform, has reshaped the landscape of payment services in China for the last decade. At present, Alipay has a user base of 520 million people, handles more than 170 million transactions per day and accounts for more than two-thirds of mobile payments in China.

Credit card use only has about 400 million patrons. Alipay rules China’s mobile payment market with absolute authority. A Forbes article claims that “cash really is becoming a thing of the past” because a “smartphone (with Alipay) will do nicely”.

Such immense popularity of the platform opened the door to the utilization of its unprecedented user-engagement for social good. Ant Farm came into being, representing the balance between marketing strategy and fulfillment of social responsibility.

Ant Farm is a pre-installed online game program inside the Alipay mobile phone application, in which users keep a virtual chicken as a pet. Through daily payments via Alipay users can feed their chicken and collect hearts to be donated to charity projects.

The parent company of Alipay and Ant Farm, Ant Financial, is working closely with governmental offices like Jiangsu Sihong Poverty Alleviation Office and more than 1,200 charity organizations. According its 2016 Corporate Social Responsibility Report, Ant Financial’s philanthropy platform has raised more than $140 million for the services provided to its partner nonprofits.

On top of the basic construct, developers have added many interactive mechanisms to boost Ant Farm’s participation. For example, playing with the pet chicken can also generate hearts and users can interact with their friends’ farms. Eventually, more and more users are engaged, funding more and more philanthropic projects.

Ant Farm is a successful model of the gamification of philanthropy, attracting hundreds of thousands of people to take part in charity projects, which is much more efficient and larger in scale than traditional models of philanthropic fundraising like donation boxes. In addition, by implementing the basic elements of an online game, Ant Farm has more charm than other heavy-hearted fundraising strategies.

Other companies have also engaged in social projects through gamification of philanthropy. Tencent, one of China’s internet and technology giants, has also cooperated with nonprofits working to provide education for left-behind children in impoverished regions by creating donation venues in its online games. In certain Tencent games, users can donate their equipment in exchange for reward or recognition.

Tencent Foundation chairman Guo Kaitian believes that with the help of online platforms like Ant Farm, “charity is now everywhere around us, and it is now the life attitude with innovation and participation”.

– Chaorong Wang
Photo: Flickr

empathy gap

“Empathy” has become something of a political buzzword in recent years. President Barack Obama has referred to America’s “empathy defecit” as being a bigger problem than its financial one. More recently, Bill and Melinda Gates told class of 2014 Stanford graduates that “feeling the other” should be a top priority.

Fortunately, a recent study, published in the journal Current Biology, suggests that while an empathy gap between strangers is a natural phenomenon, creating it is shockingly easy. The study had participants plunge their arms in ice-cold water—either alone or with a stranger—and rate their pain. The researchers found that the presence of a stranger made no difference in how participants rated their pain. However, when participants put their arms into the ice-cold water with a friend, they rated their pain as being much worse. Dr. Jeffrey Mogil, who led the study, concluded that higher pain ratings were the result of empathy.

“It would seem like more pain in the presence of a friend would be bad news, but it’s in fact a sign that there is strong empathy between individuals; they are indeed feeling each other’s pain,” explained Dr. Mogil.

While the stress of being in close proximity to a stranger precluded the inflated pain ratings that occurred amongst friends in the first experiment, a separate experiment, in which participants were given a drug that blocks the hormonal stress response, showed that when so-called “stranger danger” was relieved, empathy between friends and strangers was the same.

Dr. Mogil believes that the study hones in on the secret of what it is that mires the development of empathy between strangers.

“The secret is—quite simply—stress, and in particular the social stress of being in close proximity with a stranger,” said Dr. Mogil.

The identification of stress, more specifically, fear of strangers, as an impediment to empathy raises questions about contemporary attitudes towards those living in poverty, particularly immigrants. Despite the demonstrable economic benefits of migration, strong and outspoken pockets of xenophobic resistance to immigration remain active across the world. In many cases, resistance to immigration is driven by fear and distrust.

While defrosting the layers of unfamiliarity and skepticism between human beings might seem like a tall task, Dr. Mogil’s research team identified a surprisingly simple solution: participants played video games. Researchers observed as strangers played the video game Rock Band with each other for 15 minutes, and found that the shared experience was enough to reduce the empathy-impeding stress response.

“It turns out that even a shared experience that is as superficial as playing a video game together can move people from the ‘stranger zone’ to the ‘friend zone’ and generate meaningful levels of empathy,” Dr. Mogil said.

Dr. Mogil said that the research demonstrates the potential of instituting basic strategies to reduce social stress in order to illicit greater empathy.

While using 15 minutes of Rock Band is certainly not a blanket solution to the world’s myriad of ills, capitalizing on the interconnectedness of the modern world to create shared experiences across cultures and nationalities could play an important role in bridging the empathy gap.

– Parker Carroll

Sources: The Guardian,  Huffington Post,  Huffington Post,  Spring

Photo: Sojo

If you are a gamer, then you know exactly what it feels like the moment you beat your highest score after what can be hours of not blinking or eating—excitement, pride and pure joy.

It’s an amazing feeling, really. Whether it’s seeing your name at the top of the scoreboard or earning more points for free upgrades and new features, gaming is a world of its own. But what if you expanded that world by sharing your skills with people who actually can not afford to eat or blink away a virtual reality? What if there was a way to give without losing?

Here are the top five games for charity that let gamers do just that: lend gaming skills to people in need by winning more points and lowering poverty.

1. Free Rice

Free Rice is a nonprofit website run by the United Nations World Food Programme that not only provides education to everyone for free, but also helps end world hunger by giving rice to hungry people. This is a fun way for anyone with a computer to invest in something greater than the education absorbed from the game. Not only do players learn new vocabulary, but for each correct answer, Free Rice donates 10 grains of rice through the World Food Programme to help end world hunger.

2. Quingo

Quingo combines trivia and bingo in a game that gives players the power to use points to donate to one of six charities, five of which are based in Seattle. In the game founded by Seattle-based development, Game It Forward, players around the world can choose from the following charities to which to donate: Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, Kiva, PAWS, Seattle Children’s, Splash or The Martinez Foundation. The revenue generated from ads and in-game purchases is split between Game It Forward and its charity partners. This game is accessible through iTunes.

3. Charitii

Charitii is a free word game that donates unlimited, clean drinking water to communities living in poverty. For every correct word selected by the player, five ounces of water will be donated to a charity. Charitii is able to use all the money it raises to fund water and sanitation projects in 11 of the poorest communities in Africa and Asia. These projects range from hand-dug wells, boreholes, spring protections, rehabilitations and more.

4. Spin for Good

Spin for Good turns gamers into gamblers in the best way possible. With real money at stake, players compete in online tournaments on behalf of their selected charity, turning a small donation into a larger charitable gift. There’s no real loss at hand as 100 percent of the winnings go toward the charity of choice; charities include WonderWork, PEER International and the Music Resource Center. Here’s a chance for gamers to win big to give big!

5. Goodgames

Good Games allows visitors to earn a penny for every three times a game is played. These games range from arcades, cards, word searches, puzzles, strategy and much more. Every video or display ad the player sees will also generate funds for donations.

Chelsee Yee

Sources: Free Rice, Geek Wire, PR Web, Spin for Good, Good Search
Photo: Lazy Gamer