As the events in the Egyptian Arab Spring demonstrate, social media is changing the world in both subtle and profound ways. With 160 million people playing games on Facebook on a regular basis, many of them in the developing world, there is a natural intersection of games, social media and international development. NetHope and USAID are working together to tap this huge potential of using social media games to address youth-related issues in the developing world and bring about measurable behavior change.
NetHope and USAID are working together on a program called Innovations for Youth Capacity and Engagement (IYCE) whose goal is utilize the power of innovative technology, including serious games, to empower, engage and educate youth and assist them in their transition to adulthood. The program is being piloted in Jordan with a Facebook and mobile city building game, tentatively entitled Our City that will improve levels of civic engagement and systems thinking through three levels of engagement in the game.
The game puts the in role of a city council member who has been given authority by the mayor of a new city in Jordan to help build it up into a thriving metropolis. Through a series of quests and missions, the player will explore and understand the components of a health city while building their ideal of a city that represents the future of Jordan. Players will interact with their Facebook friends to build their city
Our City will achieve its learning and impact objectives through the core game play experience which revolves around building the city while managing the resources of the city and embarking on quests and missions related to civic engagement themes. In addition, to these gameplay elements, the game will also engage the target beneficiary through the use of micro-engagement content. This micro-engagement content will be short videos and mini-games that will be presented to the players as a means of advancing in the game and will be centered around various development themes in Jordan such as energy and water conservation as well as the main game theme of civic engagement. Finally, the game will drive players to also take part in real world activities such as volunteerism and classes by offering the target beneficiary significant in game rewards for their participation in these activities that are presented in the game.
In order to achieve measurable development outcomes and behavior change, the project is working with subject matter experts in the fields of civic engagement, behavior change and monitoring and evaluation. These SMEs ensure that the manner in which the game presents the learning content and the way the players subsequent learning is tracked and measured is in line with proven research and best practices.
USAID and NetHope are very excited about the potential of the IYCE program and the level of enthusiasm and support it has generated both in the international development and serious games community. We are very interested in helping organizations that believe in the power of social media and games by providing them with information about our project.