Digital games designer aims to make giving to charity fun

First charity-related game from Nebula, Kesho Town, aims to bridge agency-donor gap

Colin Guilfoyle: “It is time to get away from the seeking-sympathy model.”

Colin Guilfoyle: “It is time to get away from the seeking-sympathy model.”

 

 Colin Guilfoyle has wanted to be an entrepreneur since the age of 13. In 2014 he realised his dream when he established Nebula, a digital design studio that creates games for mobile and PC.

What makes Nebula different to most studios is that the company is at the forefront of using gaming as a new way of encouraging people to donate to charity.

“It’s about changing charity with contemporary ideas that move it away from the traditional guilt and pity models we typically see on TV ads to a more engaging, self-help and making-giving-fun model,” Guilfoyle says. 

The company’s first charity-related game is called Kesho Town and Guilfoyle describes it as “a game with real-world impact that tries to bridge the gap between agencies working in the developing world and their potential donors”. The game has been a labour of love for the six-strong Nebula team and has cost in the region of €100,00 to develop funded by Guilfoyle, his business partner publisher Gary O’Sullivan and a bank loan.

Guilfoyle points out that it costs £120 for a charity to acquire one new donor in the UK using conventional methods and that there is no guarantee that this level of investment will ensure a long-term giving relationship.

Direct engagement

“Very often people simply ‘tune out’ of charity ads on TV,” he says. “It is time to get away from the seeking-sympathy model and move to one where people become directly engaged with the charity and give as part of a game. During the game they will be able to donate to a project, such as building a well in an African village, for example, and are kept up to speed with its progress with updates and videos. They can see that the project has been completed – this ticks the trust box – and that makes them feel good about giving and they will give again.

“Kesho Town is definitely disruptive. It pushes development agencies to be accountable to their donors in a way not seen before. It also changes the dynamic of games being just for pleasure and moves them to a new level of education and fun in tandem. It’s a fundraising tool without the guilt trip.”

Guilfoyle believes Kesho Town has global potential and it will be released to English-speaking markets first and then localised for wider distribution. The company is now looking for a global aid agency willing to partner with it and back the game. “Talks are ongoing and I’d hope to see the game on mobile early next year,” says Guilfoyle, who is looking to raise €200,000 to finish out the project.

In the meantime it is full steam ahead with the company’s main business, which is creating its own games and doing contract work on gaming, apps and websites for others.

The company’s latest game is Woolly Word, a puzzle game for mobile, which is now available from Google Play and the App Store. “Word search is one of those old-school games that has gone untouched in the newer mobile era,” Guilfoyle says. “Everyone just tried to recreate the paper games on a mobile screen. With Woolly Word we made the jump to incorporate game styles and mechanics that give it new life.

“Everything I’ve done in my career to this point has been towards founding a company,” he adds. “I qualified as an accountant as I reckoned this position was the most expensive to hire in any start-up. Then I went back into IT and focused on getting the skills I needed to start Nebula.

“In the end, however, I realised that there would never be a ‘right time’ or enough skills so I made the jump two years ago and with the support of a very tolerant wife.”

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