Clicktivist Breakdown is an ongoing series dissecting online campaigns piece by piece to discover the anatomy of successful digital engagement.
How does it feel to live on $1.25 a day? That’s the question that Survive125 sets out to answer.
The campaign by 58 – an alliance of Christian based poverty fighting organizations – is an attempt to gamify activism. Gamification is the attempt to infuse elements of games into non-game applications. By doing so the idea is to incentivize participation; you’re rewarded for participating so you participate more.
Survive125 is an attempt to adopt these principles and use them to motivate people to donate. Remember back in the good old days of elementary school when you could go to the library and take out a choose your own adventure book? Survive125 is the online poverty reduction version of those books. You start off the game taking the identity of Divya Patel, a bricklayer and single mother of four, and must live out her life for one month.
As the game progresses you are given a series of choices (always two) in which you must decide such things as whether you want to live in a slum or a village, or whether you will send your daughter to work or to school. Each decision has a monetary impact and a tally of your savings (or lack thereof) is kept in the top right corner. Along with the money you receive or spend for each decision you will see facts about issues related to your decisions.
Throughout the experience notices will pop up. More often than not these events impact, usually negatively, your earning potential. Once or twice during the game however you will see an event that has a positive impact. These are always good deeds done by one of the organizations involved in 58.
Once the game ends you are given the option to play again or donate to 58.
What it does right:
The game does a good, if cursory, job at illustrating the life of someone living in poverty in a developing country in a novel way. Everyone can imagine that it’s difficult to live the life of Divya Patel but actually placing yourself in her shoes and confronting some of the challenges she faces is another story.
The focus on the number $1.25 is also effective. It gives you a frame of reference that is easily understandable. Not only that but it also encourages donating. People are sometimes dissuaded from donating by thinking that they have to give a substantial sum. In this case the focus on $1.25 not only lets me compare Divya’s daily earnings to a cup of coffee it also lets me know that a relatively small donation can have an impact. This is reflected in Survive125′s donation page, which focuses on smaller donations (<$50).
What could be improved:
The first thing that popped into my head after completing the game was that there was no way to tweet or share how the story ended (there is a generic set of share buttons at the bottom of the page). The element of competition is missing. After a bit of thought however I think that this is a good idea for this particular campaign. Though this is a game it is also a serious campaign on a serious issue and I think that allowing the user to compete with others would trivialize the trials and tribulations of the people that the campaign aims to help. The question then becomes whether this is an appropriate subject (or approach) for gamification. The competitiveness inherent in games is often what causes us to play and evangelize. I’m not sure what the answer to that is but I suspect that others could capitalize on these techniques better.
That being said I think that the informational pop ups that occur throughout the game can and should be shared. It’s an easy way to spread information about the campaign, the issue, and to attract attention to the game. It’s a quick fix that could have a serious impact on the virality of the game.
At the end of the day I see this campaign as an experiment; a tentative step into non-traditional fundraising techniques. I can’t fault 58 for being cautious – and I think that they’ve produced a solid campaign – but I would love to see someone take the principles of gamification and run with them; dive right into the water rather than sticking their toe in.
One thing is for sure though, I’d love to find out if this new approach has had any impact on 58′s fundraising activities.
What are your thoughts on Survive125′s campaign? Let us know in the comments below.