Half The Sky, the best-selling book written by Pulitzer Prize winning couple Nick Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn, is turning into a revolutionary gaming concept, targeting women in the developing world. Three mobile games, to be released in June for feature phones, teach women important entrepreneurial, health and business skills by playing casual games.
It should come as no surprise that Kristof, who's well-known for embracing digital and social media as the New York Times's first blogger, has pushed his book down this innovative path. In 2009, before the book was released, he reached out to Games for Change, after keynoting their annual event, asking them to develop a social gaming concept to accompany the book.
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Kristof saw how social games about the conflict in Darfur had reached more people than his New York Times columns and wanted to tap that potential for Half the Sky.
That turned into a Facebook game, which will be released later in 2012 to coincide with the release of the PBS documentary of Half the Sky.
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Gaming for good has become a fairly popular theme in the innovation space, though Half the Sky has bridged into some less trodden territory, by creating a game targeting non-smartphone users in the developing world. While people at Games for Change were working on the Half the Sky Facebook games, they thought why not cater to their desired audience.
"We saw that there is an emerging market in developing world, so why not go and make change that will reach the people most effected by the issues," Asi Burak, Games for Change co-president, told Mashable. "This is an amazing opportunity for people who don't have a computer, for whom mobile phones are their only tool. Why not create a cool, colorful game to introduce them to the issues?"
The three games, developed with funding from USAID, were created through partnerships with local non-profits. The games will go in multiple app stores, beginning in Kenya, Tanzania and India, and will be free to download.
Worm Attack, the first game, is created around the issue of intestinal worms effecting school attendance. The game teaches women about de-worming and will be used in school curriculum by non-profit partner Deworm the World.
The second game, Nine Minutes, teaches girls about the pregnancy cycle and maternal health. Cedpa, the non-profit partner, curated the games content and will use it to educate pregnant women in health clinics.
The third game, created for the Indian market with non-profit Breakthrough, is a "chose your own adventure" style experience called The Patels. The game presents you with several different points of family conflict, such as education options, marriage and gender equality.
"What we're doing with mobile games is pretty pioneering, it's very early on and we're figuring out a model that will be adaptable, we hope, in the future," Burak says.
The Half the Sky Movement
Speaking holistically, The Half the Sky Movement, which fully launched in May, is about empowering women around the world through the inspiration of other women's stories of becoming economic drivers and societal healers. In addition to Facebook and mobile gaming, the PBS documentary and the book, the movement is using social media to spread its message to a broader audience.
In this digitally connected age, Half the Sky is able to move beyond the perceived abilities of a book and turn into a multi-faceted digital campaign. Do you think we'll see more human rights movements stem from books? Share your predictions in the comments.
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This story originally published on Mashable here.
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