Can a serious game save the planet? [Part 2]

I launched my game Alternator on the 29 of September. After two years in development it’s a very satisfying to know people can get their hands on the game.

Alternator is a futuristic online racing game made for the ABC. Its purpose is to inspire players to take an interest in clean and renewable technologies. But can a game really save the planet?… No. The game can’t… but the people who play the game can.

There is a growing belief that games have an important role to play in behavior change. The games for change festival this year secured Al Gore as keynote speaker, and the Game Developers Conference in 2012 has a strand dedicated to games for change.

Young players who love car racing games aren’t necessarily interested in researching clean energy solutions, but Alternator opens that world for them in a really fun and engaging way. The player builds their car with clean technology. By winning races, they gain a legion of supporters who invest money in that technology allowing the player to make their car even cleaner and more powerful. The game is filled with amazing facts, but also has links out to the real world of clean technology.

So far the response from young players has been incredibly positive. One girl even gave the game 1 million out of 10. (perhaps we should have made a mathematics game).

Being my first game it was a huge learning experience, however the learning curve is still arcing up. It turns out making a game is the easy part. Spreading the word is where things get really tough. I’ve realised very quickly that it’s not enough to have a really fun game, you need to let people know it exists.

Marketing. How do you successfully market a game?… especially as an independent. I don’t know yet. I’m still working it out.

We have hired a social media expert to help us with the Facebook/Twitter/MySpace push. This has been reasonably successful so far. In the first week we had over 1000 fans of the game, and four weeks later that has risen to 3,750. Hopefully that number will continue to grow, though we are waiting to find out player numbers from the ABC so it’s impossible to say how many “fans” are actually playing the game. If you’re an indie without the time, expertise or inclination do the social media yourself I would highly recommend hiring an expert. There are plenty to choose from. We used Hayley Benson from BensonMears.

What we haven’t been able to do yet is get is get reviews or articles in either online or more traditional publications. If anyone has some ideas or experience in this area I’d love to hear your thoughts about how to break through and stand out from the other games being reviewed and written about.

As marketing for the game continues we are looking at how we can grow the concept of Alternator. We have designed an amazing world and characters, which the game only barely scratches the surface of. “Transmedia” is the latest buzz word for having one idea across several formats. So as well as taking the game into apps for phones or downloads for consoles, we’re looking at creating educational supplements for schools, and even an animated series. All of these elements will help feed back to the game and build the audience for Alternator.

Einstein apparently said “The world we have created is a process of our thinking. It cannot be changed without changing our thinking” So you never know….maybe Alternator will inspire the thoughts of the next Einstein who will find the ultimate solution to our energy needs!


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