UPDATED: March 5, 2013 12:16 p.m.
In the charity world, the telethon appears ancient and the PSA feels trite. So what's next for advocacy and awareness? Gamification, so it seems.
A new Facebook game called Half the Sky Movement: The Game was released March 4 to raise awareness for challenges women and girls face worldwide, such as human trafficking and maternal mortality.
New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof and his wife, Sheryl WuDunn, a former New York Times journalist, created the game as the third leg to their tripod movement Half the Sky, which includes a book and PBS television series that focuses on empowering underserved women who lack access to basic rights, such as education and health care.
In the game, players move the protagonist, an Indian woman named Radhika, through a series of realistic scenarios, including not having enough money to buy life-saving medicine for her child.
Kristof addressed skepticism that the game might "cheapen" the issues during a launch event at No. 8 in New York's West Village. He told the crowd that the concept, which is new to both the social good and tech space, is an "experiment" that makes the topics accessible and provides a way people can actually take action.
Actresses Olivia Wilde and America Ferrera, who were both featured in the documentary "Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide," also attended the event. Both actresses are activists who have supported causes that empower women and girls.
The game is intended for a general audience, of no specific age or background, WuDunn told HuffPost Live. Kristof added that he wants to reach people who might know very little about global women's issues.
"One of the problems with the [Half the Sky] book and with the documentary is they tend to reach people who are already converted," Kristof told HuffPost Live on Monday. "And really the point of the game is to reach skeptics, and we hope that by getting them to play...they'll become exposed a bit."
Pointing out that the game is an entryway into weighty topics, Kristof said that the aim is to spark awareness and to show people how they can get involved.
"We really think the most important issue right now worldwide is empowering women, getting girls educated, bring[ing] them out of the margins into the formed labor force and center of society," Kristof said. "This addresses so many issues around the world from global poverty on."
Facebookers are able to donate to charities while playing by completing tasks and buying virtual goods that will then help real-world nonprofit recipients through specific organizations. Buying a virtual goal in the game, for example, also presents an opportunity to buy one for a real family in need.
"The game play blurs lines between what's happening in the virtual world with what's happening in the real world," Kristof said. "So you collect books in the virtual world and a real book will go in the hands of a real girl somewhere."
HuffPost Live host Marc Lamont Hill questioned whether young people want to play educational games on Facebook, but did credit learning about issues such as dysentery from Oregon Trail.
"Maybe they'll learn the term 'fistula.' Maybe they'll learn the term 'microfinance' or 'microlending,'" WuDunn replied. "So there are a lot of things they might pick up that they wouldn't ordinarily learn in Grand Theft Auto."
Watch the whole HuffPost Live segment above.
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