The Playful Path to Social Impact

How the World of Video Games Transforms the Philanthropic Landscape

The gaming industry has come a long way from minimalistic pixel creations like Pong via Space Invaders and Monkey Island to today’s AAA color and graphical orgasms like Red Dead Redemption II. It is incredible what has been achieved in this short amount of time and compared to their older siblings born just a few years earlier, current games rather equal a realistic Hollywood blockbuster starring a whole bunch of A-listers.

Evolution of Video Games over the Years

The video game industry is without a doubt the new star in the entertainment sky and has superseded its rivals by far. According to the industry analytics platform Newzoo, the revenues generated by the global game market in 2018 are somewhere around $134.9 billion. This is much more than the global box office revenue ($44 billion) and the global recorded music revenue ($18.9 billion) combined. Despite these mind-blowing numbers, it’s surprising how difficult it can be to find those players when you speak to the average person on the street; rarely will they consider themselves to be gamers (though maybe that’s just New York’s constant hustle mode that doesn’t allow for video game breaks).

Video games continue to inhere the stereotype of only being played by the chubby kid in the basement that has no friends. Although there are surely some chubby kids that still have nacho cheese-stained fingers on controllers in the dark musty downstairs of their houses, this stereotype couldn’t be farther from the truth. With 60% of the US population playing video games on a daily basis and the average player being 34 years old we are definitely not speaking of a negligible minority anymore. This group of people represents a proper cross-section of the entire US population and, with that, an opportunity to engage.

I think the thing we see is that as people are using video games more, they tend to watch passive TV a bit less. And so using the PC for the Internet, playing video games, is starting to cut into the rather unbelievable amount of time people spend watching TV.

- Bill Gates

The Game Opportunity

While we live in a rapidly globalizing world, the concerns and attention of the average person (by necessity) are focused on their local, immediate environment and relationships. Issues that exist outside of personal experience are easy to ignore and there’s little to motivate people to educate themselves on issues they have little awareness of and may not even perceive to exist.

Reaching these people means exposing them to the information in a format that they already find compelling. In other words, the messaging needs to be delivered in a Trojan horse.

Luckily, almost all kinds of video games genres (e.g. adventure games vs first person shooter) and types (e.g. AAA vs indie development) have their fanbase. Similar to the movie world, those fans are excited about the big blockbusters and at the same time have a lot of affection for the niche indie game. The opportunity is, therefore, immense to reach a vast audience with one single video game.

At Arcade Distillery, when working with the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, or short PETA, on their gaming project, we built their first-ever PlayStation game, Kitten Squad. Although simple and fairly easy, the game was fun and engaging: two of the most important factors in the video game world. Without additional marketing help, Kitten Squad reached multiple 100,000 in downloads in no time and by now has surpassed the 2 million mark by far.

But it wasn’t the downloads alone that surprised us. More surprising were the responses from players via social media and other channels. Of course, there were haters. But the players that had positive things to say about the PETA’s mission and the causes described through the gameplay were in the overall majority.

The Learning

We generally live in wonderful times. What social media is for awareness, video games are for education. But in order to get this educational machine to work, game developers have to follow some simple rules:

  1. The game has to be fun — no one with a right mind will play an educational game!
  2. It has to have a captivating story that captures the player’s heart.
  3. It shouldn’t necessarily be directed towards kids (unless that’s the target group you are going for).
  4. It should include as little marketing messaging as possible.

Keeping these rules or guidelines in mind should help the development of a game that can both entertain and do good for our social and natural environment.

With One Earth Rising, we have created a company that focuses entirely on the development of social impact games. With that goal in mind and following our mission to, “harness the power of philanthropy through interactive experiences,” we have founded one of the first console-focused video game companies that is a public benefit corporation (P.B.C.). I am proud and happy to announce that our first title under this new umbrella, Paraiso Island, has been released on PlayStation 4 this afternoon. Paraiso Island was created to support nonprofits that are dedicated to rebuilding the Caribbean after the devastating hurricanes. We are sharing up to 50% of our in-game profits with selected nonprofits.s.

Our CEO and President, Beryl Basham, comes from a long line of philanthropic engagements and together, under her guidance, we will try to make an impact and generate sustainable income for nonprofits for years to come.

Originally published at on March 5, 2019.

Devoted Foodie, passionate Entrepreneur, Cosmopolitan by choice, extreme Traveler, and a big Fan of great Communication. Co-founder & CEO at One Earth Rising.