According to countless complaining mothers worldwide, video games have long suffered the stigma of being a waste of time. They’re also addictive, socially isolating, and even pose health risks if taken to the extreme. Yet, with over 3 billion video gamers on Earth—around 39 percent of the entire human population—, this pastime is not going anywhere anytime soon. How, then, can the gaming industry use its influence for good?
Several video game companies are now taking great strides to do just that. While environmental, social, and corporate governance (ESG) measures are becoming increasingly common in industries of all types, the gaming industry, in particular, is starting to wake up to the problems it has created. Many players are also looking toward kinder alternative games that allow them to support social good initiatives.
Raising Awareness through Entertainment
One of the most significant new trends in gaming is the creation of games that raise awareness about various social issues. From bullying and eating disorders to the horrors of war and child abuse, these thematic games aim to teach empathy to a new generation of gamers, paving the way for a brighter future.
In the US, GamesForChange.org has been a big supporter of awareness-raising games long before ESG even became a thing. Over in China, technology and entertainment giant Tencent also recently announced several gaming projects aimed at creating social value not long after the Chinese government approved 86 new games this spring, easing heavy regulations on the gaming industry that have been in place since the summer of 2021.
However, the sector causing the most disruption and innovation has been the blockchain gaming space, as they challenge traditional gaming by rewarding players in-game with cryptocurrencies and tradable NFTs—a game mechanic known as Play-to-Earn (P2E) or Play-and-Earn (P&E). These “GameFi” games allow gamers to create real value where once they were only seen to be wasting time. Axie Infinity has become one of the most popular in the space—during the crypto boom of 2021 and 2022, Axie Infinity peaked at nearly 2.8 million daily active players, the highest traction to date in the still young GameFi (gaming finance) industry.
But even in the current bear market where P&E earnings are relatively meager—Axie’s $AXS token fell over 96 percent from its Nov 2021 value of $166.09—GameFi is still going strong in Southeast Asia (SEA). People from impoverished regions in SEA, where monthly minimum wages are often under US$300, are turning to P2E gaming as a means of labor-free supplemental income, with some able to support their families through gaming alone wholly. Around 23 percent of Vietnam’s entire population and 25 percent of people from the Philippines have played P2E games, according to a poll by Finder. Web3 gaming is undoubtedly creating a massive social impact in the region.
While most P2E games have the potential to create social good by economically empowering players, Singapore-based Digital Entertainment Asset (DEA) takes this angle a notch up and is actively pursuing “GameFi-for-Good” through promising social innovations that merge GameFi with the real world. In addition to the many casual P2E games hosted on DEA’s PlayMining GameFi platform, the company supports a wide range of charitable causes across SEA. It actively develops initiatives to help those who are in need, such as single mothers, disabled people, and farming communities that are impoverished.
DEA is currently developing a social contribution game (together with Greenway Grid Guild, which was established by Tokyo Electric Power Company [TEPCO] and partners) using NFTs to address the challenges faced by governments and infrastructure companies. The game aims to partially replace the inspection and patrol work of aging facilities by enlisting the help of the gaming community, who are incentivized through play. Recently, DEA partnered with Rita Technology to develop a social impact video game where players can remotely control real waste-sorting robots installed at actual waste processing facilities.
Oasys is another project that is embracing social impact in a big way. The gamefi-specific blockchain recently partnered with DEA to co-develop content “centered around solving social issues through games”, which will be deployed on Oasys via a new layer 2 blockchain. As a fee-less and environmentally friendly blockchain, Oasys is quickly establishing itself as a trailblazer with multiple big-name partnerships in the traditional gaming industry, including SEGA, Square Enix, Ubisoft, and Bandai Namco.
While most AAA gaming companies shied away from NFTs and blockchain when the crypto markets took a nosedive in 2022, many are warming up to the technology again. Final Fantasy maker Square Enix has announced plans for aggressive investment into NFTs this year. EA Sports is re-exploring the notion of adding NFTs to FIFA and Madden, and Sony has filed a patent for NFTs that enable interoperability of in-game assets. This is all evidence of the mainstream gaming industry moving toward the GameFi model—meaning it is only a matter of time before Web3-powered gaming hits the mass market, and game developers worldwide will have easy access to tools that can help them make a real impact on society.