Games can be an effective medium of communicating a social cause to its targeted audience and SGN’s Rescue Reef is a prime example of social gaming done right. Rescue Reef is developed by social game developer SGN and it has recently joined forces with Phillip Cousteau’s nonprofit Earth Echo International. The new partnership has resulted in a new update that enables gamers to donate to Earth Echo while playing to save endangered species.
In the past, organizations have tried using games as a tool to educate players, push for social and environmental responsibilities and at times to raise donations for charity. However, there lies a paradox in creating social games. Most social games tend to be designed around a particular message rather than incorporating fun, engaging gameplay. This in turn may put off their intended audience and reduces the effectiveness of the medium. Real effectiveness of a social message within a game comes from its subtlety and non-intrusive nature to players.
Conversely, social games are most successful when organizations give game developers the freedom to design a engaging game system prior to including any social messages. SGN’s success with Rescue Reef is primarily attributed to its partnership with Earth Echo. The former gave SGN free reign in designing the game mechanics and encourage the speedy release of the new update within a month of the partnership. SGN’s CEO and MySpace founder Chris DeWolfe explained:“We focused on creating a fun game first and then added the environment element… You have to look at game mechanics that have been successful – things that make players want to come back, to take care of their animals, get more points, brag to their friends – these are elements that have to be present in any successful social game.” As result shows, Rescue Reef made it to the top 10 in Apple’s app store and is one of SGN’s most popular games.
The collaborative approach conceived by SGN and Earth Echo is exemplary for other to emulate. It leaves much food for thought for how non-profits and organizations should work alongside game developers in order to create successful social games.