I tried to play all the games (some just wouldn’t work) and I actually had quite a bit of fun with all of them. But fun is not all that it’s about. I’m going to look at two games that have similar aims but with different approaches to that aim and see how they compare.
First off was Darfur Is Dying. The beginning goal of this game is to get the water safely to save your family. It brings awareness of something that a lot of people either don’t know enough about or don’t care to think about (since it’s such a difficult subject). The puzzle of the game is relatively easy to figure out. By the third try, I had already mastered the water fetching part of the game. That’s not what was important to the game designers however. The main point of the game was to bring awareness, not necessarily fun, which is why the puzzle is easy enough. The goal in the game is not as important as the goal of the game. The second part of the game, which brings the reason for the game even more to the forefront (that is, the awareness of horrible conditions for people in the region for Darfur) has the mechanics of a normal village style game. It’s the guilt that the game makes us feel that makes it different. Yes, I said guilt. The game guilts the player by presenting all the horrible stories, making the player feel uncomfortable. I know I felt that way. Perhaps this is the best way to raise awareness, for guilt is a powerful motivator.
In contrast to the guilt filled horribleness that was Darfur is Dying, FoodForce for Facebook tries to raise awareness of world hunger by presenting a cute game with Farmville-esqe qualities. In fact, it almost seems like the same game, save for the operations center (I’m not really sure if Farmville has a processing option since I’ve never played it myself). What it lacks in creativity it makes up for in addictivness, because the goals of feeding the world are laid out very simply and in easy to complete ways. It’s easy to plant virtual crops to feed virtual people, all while feeling the glow of action. This game does not guilt the player; it’s a feel good simulation of what it’s like to help others in a worldwide organization. However, the call to action perhaps isn’t as strong because it’s such a cute game. As I said before, guilt is a powerful motivator, and this game just doesn’t have that.