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Surprising Science

Improving Real-World Communities Through Gaming

This month, proceeds from the purchase of any of three branded items displayed within the popular social game FarmVille 2 will go to the nonprofit organization

What’s the Latest Development?

For this month only, players of Zynga’s FarmVille 2 can help water-compromised communities worldwide by purchasing any of three items — a sprinkler, a water pump, and a jerry can — and, by doing so, sending funds to, a nonprofit organization of which actor Matt Damon is a co-founder. Clicking on any of the items also displays information about the organization and a link to its Web site, which contains additional data about real-world water crises. Zynga executive director Ken Weber says the connection makes sense: “Water is important in farming and in the world – it is a naturally occurring relationship.”

What’s the Big Idea?

By giving FarmVille 2 players — all 56 million of them — the opportunity to help needy communities while immersed in a gaming environment, Zynga is one of several companies using virtual challenges to capitalize on “gamer goodwill.” In fact, Zynga’s philanthropic arm was specifically created in response to both player and employee requests for connections to real-world challenges. To date, it has raised millions of dollars for nonprofits such as Habitat for Humanity and the World Food Programme. 

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