STATE OF OPPORTUNITY. Can Kids in Michigan Get Ahead?
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Can digital games end childhood poverty?


Can digital games help lift children out of poverty? That’s what Wendy Lazarus, Founder and Co-President of The Children’s Partnership thinks.

This week Lazarus wrote an editorial piece for the Huffington Post, explaining how the $24.7 billion digital game industry can benefit child health and education.

She may be on to something. Even with other parts of the economy faltering, the gaming industry is still strong. Consumer spending at retailers on video games dropped 8 percent in 2011 but digital game sales rose by 7 percent

And it's who these consumers are that Lazarus thinks is important. They're women, who are more likely than men to give to charitable causes.

The increase in digital game sales is largely due to women gamers. Almost 55 percent of mobile and social gamers are women. In city community-building and “nurturing’ games, the percentage of women players can tick up to 75 percent.

Lazarus created VirtuallyGood4Kids, which seeks to connect women gamers with charitable initiatives across the nation.

For example, by purchasing a glass refrigerator in The Sims Social, a gamer would also be supporting local food pantries or healthy snacks in after-programs in the real world. In turn, the gamer would be rewarded with increased social points and move up levels in the game.

The Children’s Partnership’s plan is definitely ambitious. But, with nearly a quarter of Michigan’s children living in poverty, it’s hard to gauge whether VirtuallyGood4Kids will have a large impact on childhood poverty.

After all, the Product Red campaign wasn't that successful. And the lottery has long been criticized for promoting poor consumer spending habits while doing very little for education.

VirtuallyGood4Kids was presented to the public earlier this month. There is currently no information regarding the official launch of the VirtuallyGood4Kids initiative.