15 Years!

Brainstorming Games for Social Good

To help brainstorm ideas for your game, you can use a matrix like the one below to help you. The vertical column contains the game genres you are interested in making. The horizontal column contains the social good themes that you and your team are interested in taking on. In the matrix below we have chosen 3 social issues; Ecological Sustainability, Bullying, and Education. Feel free to use the 3 issues provided here, however we encourage you to take some time to talk with your team and come up with additional social good topics. Refer back to the Anatomy of Games for Social Good article for topic guidance.

Ecological Sustainability Bullying Education
Puzzle

Platformer
Adventure / RPG
Simulation / RTS

Here is the fun part. Use the matrix to think of game ideas that contain the genre and the social good topic. This is the time to be imaginative and envision a game as a whole. Think about what it would be like to play it as it is was a finished game.

Fill in the matrix with as many combinations of genre and topic you can. You should populate the each box of the matrix with a short “Elevator Pitch” for your game. In the OGPC Game Jams we encourage every team to produce a One Page Design Document. This design document is one of the first steps in formalizing your game design. In that document you are asked to come up with the “Elevator Pitch” of what your game is. The “Elevator Pitch” is a 1 or 2 sentence explanation of your game. Here are some examples below.

Ecological Sustainability Bullying Education
Puzzle

A puzzle game that helps your fellow students better understand a subject.
Platformer As you walk the halls of school you or your fellow students may be being bullied. You must react quickly to find allies that will stop the bullying and turn bullies into allies.
Adventure / RPG Our avatar explores the modern world in a quest to finds ways to reduce waste.
Simulation / RTS

Now that the matrix is populated, it is time to narrow down to the best ideas. Think about which game ideas have the most potential:

  • Which games have feature ideas that just keep popping up?
  • Conversely, which game ideas are hard to think of new features?
  • How can each team member really participate and contribute?
  • What are the challenges?
  • Where is the awesomeness!

Talk it over with the team and take a vote. Now you have a game idea you can really build on!

If for some reason an idea you really like doesn’t get chosen. Don’t throw it away! We encourage you to keep track of it. There is always next year’s OGPC!

Anatomy of Games for Social Good

Since this year’s OGPC theme has been opened up to be any “Gaming for Social Good” theme of your choosing, additional responsibility has been placed on you to figure out your theme. This extra responsibility is challenging indeed! Let’s think about what “Gaming for Social Good” means in preparation for developing our game idea.

What is a “Social Good”?

A “Social Good” is any act or service that is good for people. For Example:

I take my neighbor’s garbage can down to the street.

When I do this I am performing an act of “Social Good”.

What is a “Social Issue”?

A “Social Issue” is a problem that some group of people share. For example:

in my neighborhood there are a lot of elderly people who find it hard to take their garbage cans down to the street.

We can call this social issue “Care for the Elderly”.

What are some more specific social issues?

Answer this by thinking about your friends, families, and your own experiences. Think about what works well in your community and what does not. Think of something real, that affects you or the people you know. By choosing something “real” it will be much easier to think of game ideas and features later. For example:

My classmates are having a hard time in Chemistry class, and I want to help them somehow.

My brother wants to ride his bike to school, but there are not enough bike lanes for him.

You can also research national and global social issues, including the following:

  • Physical Disability and Accessibility
  • Healthy Eating & Fitness
  • Water Conservation
  • Pollution
  • Extincting Species
  • Bullying
  • Mass Transit
  • Identity Theft

How can the game be a “Social Good”?

Considering that the social issue is the problem, and the social good is the solution. Then your game just needs to represent that solution. Here are two approaches:

1. The game is a direct solution

This is where your game solves the problem directly. For Example:

A social game where people who car pool create teams, every time they carpool they get points equal to the amount of people in the car.

This solves a few social issues, traffic, pedestrian and cyclist safety.

2. The game is an indirect solution, by simulating the problem and solution

This is where the game models the problem and you play out the solution. For Example:

As you walk the halls of school you or your fellow students may be bullied. You must react quickly to find allies that will stop the bullying and turn bullies into allies.

This models the problem and solution, it teaches the player how to handle the situation, it also raises awareness of the problem, and in-turn contributes to the solution.

In Conclusion

Hopefully the terms and ideas around games for social good are a bit clearer now. In the next post we will cover a brainstorming approach that will help you develop your social good ideas into specific genres of game play.

Let’s Make a Game

In the Beginning

It used to be true that making video games was a daunting task. You were first required learn computer programming along with some programming language. Once you had acquired the basics, you would then learn more advanced programming libraries to create things like graphics and audio. Only then could you even begin to write your first line of code that would eventually become your game. I know that sounds like fun, but what if you really just want to get your idea out of your head and into reality?

Modern Tools of the Trade

You now have more tools then ever to help you create games, it is really up to you to find out which tool will work best for you. You may really have a knack for creating graphics or story telling, many tools will take care of the tough parts for you, leaving you with more time to focus on your game’s experience. If you do happen to have some programming experience, many tools allow you to write code and really take control of your game.

Here Are Some Suggestions

The list below includes game development tools we have been keeping our eyes on. Each tool has been ranked by “Difficulty”, which refers to a general view of how much experience with computers and software you should have when considering using the tool. If you have never made a game with these or any other tool before, you may want to stick to the top of the list. On the other hand if you have worked with these or other tools, and have made games in the past, you may consider venturing down the list.

1. Construct 2

Construct 2 is a great tool for creating 2d web games with HTML5. This is a good fit for smaller teams and users with little or no programming experience. It has free and paid licenses.

2. StencylWorks

StencylWorks is a free tool for creating 2d Flash games. It has an interaction engine similar to Scratch, which may be familiar to some users. It has the added benefit of providing a way for advanced users to program directly in ActionScript a JavaScript variant.

3. GameMaker

GameMaker is a popular game development tool for making 2d and 3d games. It allows for direct programming in a proprietary scripting language and has a large active community. It has free and paid licenses.

4. Unity 3D

Unity 3D is an advanced game engine for creating 3d games that run on all major platforms. It should only be considered if you are confident in your skills and are ready to dedicate some serious time learning the engine. It allows for custom programming in JavaScript and C# and has free and paid licensing options.

5. Unreal Development Kit

The UDK is another advanced game engine for creating 3d games that run on all major platforms. It is a professional engine and collection of tools that will require time and dedication to learn. It allows for custom programming in a proprietary scripting language and has free and paid licensing options.