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Facebook game grows a soul, not crops

  • NY Times' Nicholas Kristof to launch game for social change
  • Success in the game would have real world impacts
  • Kristof: Gaming may be next big platform for causes
Facebook game grows a soul, not crops

What if every time you played CityVille and built a library a real child received a real book? What if every time you bought a cow in FarmVille a real farmer received extra cash? Or what if every time you killed someone in Mafia Wars a real ... nevermind. Let's just stop right there.

But the general idea is pretty fantastic and now the New York Times' op-ed writer Nicholas Kristof is using the power of Facebook gaming for good, launching a game that will benefit global humanitarian causes.

It may seem like an unlikely pairing -- the two-time Pulitzer Prize winning journalist and human rights champion aligning with a realm best known for its addictive ability to make you stare at a screen all day -- but Kristof explained in an interview with Fast Company why he feels this makes perfect sense.

"I think gaming might be the next big platform for news organizations and causes. There's some snobbery about games. Some people think games are just 'what teenagers do,'" he says. "But there are a lot of people who spend a lot of time playing games online, so we in the news business would do well to think about how we can use games to attract eyeballs."

And what will those eyeballs see when playing Kristof's still-untitled socially conscious game?

"It will be vaguely analogous to FarmVille," he says in the interview. "You'll have a village, and in order to nurture this village, you'll have to look after the women and girls in the village."

Kristof says there will be "real-world effects. In other words, there will be schools and refugee camps that will benefit if you do well in the game."

Mashable reports that players will be able to aid various causes by either completing virtual missions or making very real donations through the game.

It won't be launched until later this year, but the game is being by developed by Games for Change who already have a long line of social games aimed at raising global awareness or teaching things like financial planning and computer programming.

And when's the last time Mafia Wars taught anyone about urban energy consumption?

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