Video Games and Social Change

Video games, humanitarian actions, social change and development – apparently, there isn’t any connection among them, right? Wrong.

On the occasion of the World Water day, which takes place every 22 of March, a mobile game, promoted by the United Nations, was launched. When I was invited to a UN conference at my university, about the mobile game Get Water, the initial reaction of surprise slowly transformed into curiosity.

This mobile game was created by a young team of “humanitarian technologists” as they call themselves, from a Montreal-based startup, Decode Global, specialized in developing video games to increase awareness about important global issues and to encourage social change.

The game’s protagonist is Maya, a young and lovely Indian girl, who is a book-lover, optimistic and likes school. Unfortunately, like many girls around the world, Maya must collect water for her family.  Therefore, the aim is to quickly collect water in order to make Maya go back to school; and in order to that, you have to collect the most water and mangoes using a boomerang to frighten away crazy peacocks that want to crack Maya’s water pot.

The message of this engaging game is clear: water scarcity still affects the life of millions of people. Indeed, while some just have the trouble of turning on the tap to get water, others need to walk miles and miles. According to the last WHO/UNICEF monitoring report, at least 11% of the global population, or 783 million people, are still without access.

Through a partnership with organizations such as Unicef CanadaWomen for Water, (and Coca-Cola Support My School), this mobile game is simple, funny and raises the question of water scarcity, gender inequality, and educational stakes in a relevant way, thanks to the universal character Maya.

With action comes change: this original initiative of making video games a tool for social change and a new kind of intercultural dialogue, proves it. And, without doubt, it highlights the outstanding and boundless creativity of human beings, which never ceases to amaze me.