New Games Provide Ways to Bring Communities Together in Macon and Biloxi

MIAMI (SEPT. 22, 2010) – Innovative, real-world games will enable Macon residents to forge new, community-building relationships and Biloxi youth to experience the importance of disaster preparation.

With support from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, Area/Code Entertainment is building the games to promote critical thinking and collaboration as players explore important issues.

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“Eleven million people worldwide play World of Warcraft, 80 million play Farmville and 485 million play Monopoly,” said Jessica Goldfin, a journalism program associate at Knight Foundation. “We want to channel that playful energy spent on countless games each day and redirect it toward real-world actions to benefit communities.” 

Area/Code Entertainment, which received $963,900 in Knight funding, developed the game, Macon Money, which will use real rewards to bring together diverse Macon residents. The game is part of Knight’s continuing efforts to support revitalizing Macon and creating a vibrant college town.

Macon MoneyMacon Money, launching in mid-October, will offer real rewards in a local “currency” that can be spent at participating College Hill and downtown businesses, including cafes and retail stores.

To earn the currency, players must cash in “bonds” that have been distributed to residents of Macon. The catch is that each player gets just half a bond and to turn it in must find the person holding the other half.

To find their match, players can use whatever means their imagination and ingenuity can invent – social media, online message boards, the Macon Money website – even face-to-face contact. “Cash” in hand, the players then decide how and where to spend their Macon Money.

“This is a fun and challenging game, with a tangible reward at the end,” said Beverly Blake, Knight Foundation’s Macon program director. “More importantly, people will establish new connections through various forms of communication, and local businesses will draw in new customers. We think Macon Money is a meaningful way to build and unite the community.”

For the Biloxi and Gulf Coast community, Area/Code has designed a game called Battlestorm. The game’s purpose is to increase awareness about natural disasters and change the way people prepare for them. Despite the devastation wreaked by Hurricane Katrina in 2005, studies show that most Americans – including those along the Gulf Coast – remain woefully unprepared for natural disasters and emergencies.

Battlestorm will take place at the beginning of the 2011 hurricane season, targeting Biloxi area youths through Boys and Girls Clubs, and reaching out to the larger community through mass participation on the game’s website and through a spectacular, large-scale public tournament.

Reminiscent of Capture the Flag, Battlestorm is played inside a gym or auditorium.

Players set up structures and defenses using large, foam-rubber materials. Then a team representing “The Hurricane” attempts to destroy “The Community” by knocking down structures and isolating and capturing players. Meanwhile, The Community players attempt to thwart The Hurricane by using water bottles, flashlights and other preparedness items in their “disaster kits,” which each player puts together in advance of the competition.

 “By personifying the storm as an aggressive enemy, but giving players – and the larger community – a chance to fight The Hurricane effectively through strategy and preparedness, the game offers the entire community some cathartic entertainment around an anxiety-provoking subject,” said Frank Lantz, Area/Code’s creative director. “Most importantly, it serves as an engaging reminder of the importance of disaster preparedness, and the means of achieving it.”

About the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation

The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation advances journalism in the digital age and invests in the vitality of communities where the Knight brothers owned newspapers. Knight Foundation focuses on projects that promote informed and engaged communities and lead to transformational change. For more, visit www.knightfoundation.org.

About Area/Code

Area/Code takes advantage of today’s environment of pervasive technologies and overlapping media to create new kinds of game play. We are inspired by both the potential of ubiquitous networked computing and the long historical tradition of games as social interaction.

Contact: Marc Fest, Vice President of Communications, Knight Foundation, 305-908-2677; fest@knightfoundation.org

Kati London, Vice President, Senior Producer, Area/Code, 212-254-5800; kati.london@areacodeinc.com

Beverly Blake (for Macon Money information), Macon Program Director, Knight Foundation, 478-301-5011; blake@knightfoundation.org

About the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation

Knight Foundation supports transformational ideas that promote quality journalism, advance media innovation, engage communities and foster the arts. We believe that democracy thrives when people and communities are informed and engaged. For more, visit www.knightfoundation.org.