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How to Help Charities While Playing Videogames

For those of us who are too lazy to put down our phones and volunteer...

Seriously

Thanksgiving weekend — and the holidays in general — inspires lots of people to volunteer or otherwise give to those in need. Now it’s possible to do just that without stopping the game on your phone.

The idea is simple: Since people are spending billions on mobile games every year, with analysts forecasting that number to grow, tying even a small fraction of those purchases to charities can do some good and also give fickle users another reason to come back and play.

A Philadelphia-based startup called SuperMighty is making development tools that let game developers insert charitable giving into their mobile titles. It’s working toward becoming a “B corp,” a for-profit company certified by the nonprofit B Lab as socially beneficial.

CEO Ty Burrowbridge called the “tsunami of money” being spent on mobile games a “massive opportunity.” SuperMighty curates a list of charities like the Philadelphia food bank Philabundance, and wants partnering developers to offer special in-game items that benefit those charities, with SuperMighty eventually planning to take a 5 percent to 10 percent cut of the purchase.

The startup’s private beta recently launched with nine games made by six developers, including Bungle, Knight Strike and Airplane Adventures Hawaii.

Another charity partnership was baked into the new puzzle game Best Fiends, made by Finnish startup Seriously. In it, players collect and level up friendly animals (called fiends) as they swipe their way through matching-puzzle levels. And one of the fiends, Edward, is a new de facto mascot of Malaria No More.

“The first goal was to introduce people to the issue in a really endemic way,” Malaria No More CEO Martin Edlund said. “Everyone who gets past a certain level is introduced to Edward.”

The twist: Edward is a mosquito. But it’s okay — he’s a vegetarian. Once he realized that malaria-carrying mosquitoes are the deadliest creatures on Earth, he gave up blood and started drinking coconut milk instead. The game encourages players, through Edward’s character page, to learn more about malaria and donate $1 to the charity.

The Global Gaming Initiative’s mobile game Outbreak Responder
The Global Gaming Initiative’s mobile game Outbreak Responder

Malaria No More also partnered with the Global Gaming Initiative to make Outbreak Responder, a strategy game that simulates being an aid worker on the ground in a third-world country. A portion of sales in the game is donated to fighting malaria in the real world.

“Best Fiends is reaching a mass audience, while Outbreak Responder is encountering people who want to dig deep into an issue,” Edlund said. “It’s a spoonful of medicine along with the sugar of the game.”

If none of those games sound up your alley, there are other options, too — games and charitable causes have a solid history:

  • A game called Quingo, released last year by Seattle-based “social purpose corporation” Game It Forward, lets users answer trivia questions on behalf of one pre-selected charity. Some of the money generated from any ads they watch or in-game items they purchase is then sent to that charity.
  • Humble Bundle is a site that sells PC games, mobile games and ebooks as collections, or bundles, using “pay what you want” pricing. By default, 20 percent of what buyers pay goes to charities like Child’s Play and the American Red Cross, but they can drag sliders left or right to change that split.
  • And, of course, there’s Free Rice, now in its 15th year. Supported by display ads, the site donates 10 grains of rice to the United Nations World Food Program for every correctly answered educational question.

This article originally appeared on Recode.net.