War Child uses the language of video games to raise awareness
Here at Take This, we’ve been fortunate to have the support of some wonderful game studios — you can see many of them featured on our home page, in fact. But broadly speaking, many charities are hesitant to work with game studios, and many game studios have yet to explore how to use their resources to help causes that matter to them.
Kotaku UK recently spoke with Cliff Harris, founder of Positech Games, about how his studio works with charities, and how both groups could be doing more. Positech is currently running a promotion where proceeds from purchases of Democracy 3 between November 21st and December 3rd will go to War Child.
Harris discussed the unexpected roadblocks he ran into when trying to find charities to support:
There are “concerns that games are too violent,” Harris say. And as soon as these charities knew he was a developer, they didn’t want to work with him. “I don’t make violent games. I thought that’s ridiculous but then loads of people, especially older people, don’t know anything about games. […] I would guess that a lot of charity money is from older people and also from people leaving money in their will and [the charities] worry that such people worry about games.”
The thinking being that, if a charity is seen to be linked to games (even non-violent ones), it could damage that charity’s reputation amongst its most reliable donors. “I can understand that they want to protect its brand,” Harris said.
This may only change as part of a larger cultural shift to accept games and acknowledge that games can do much more than promote violence. There are non-profits that work in the games industry already, like ours, but others may be slower to want to work with developers.
Harris has also put some thought into the developer’s side of things. He believes that partnerships that have developers create a bespoke game or item to support a charity might be of limited value. For him, the better solution is simply to donate profits.
Harris pointed to an earlier War Child campaign where a series of developers partnered with the charity to make some small games for a bundle to be sold on Steam. “I thought that’s okay but you’re never going to get anything really good because people are going to knock it up in a day off,” Harris says. “I wondered if it made much money. The easiest way to make money is to convince developers to give it to you. Crudely, that’s what it comes down to.”
Simply setting aside a period of time where all the profits are set aside for the charity is easier and less time intensive for the developer, and more immediately beneficial for the charity. It also, Harris says, has another effect: “I thought it might be a good way to shame some bigger companies.”
“If I knock up some crappy game at the weekend and say ‘Have that’ that’s one thing but I’d like to think somewhere on some message board somewhere there’s someone going ‘Why don’t EA do this for 12 days,’” Harris continued. “That would make a staggering amount of money.”
Harris also looks at indie developers, using his company’s success and charitable giving as an example.
While many individuals and companies in the industry already support important causes, donating a portion of a game’s profits could be a visible way to help and raise awareness — and it gets players involved in doing good, too.