Now, how cool is this? A video game that positively impacts the world, specifically third-world countries with limited resources (starting in Haiti), by providing funds to install solar systems that power medical clinics, schools and households with electricity access, essentially making the lives of the people living in these underserved communities better.
The game is called The Solar Games, a 3D kart racing game that “incorporates semi-realistic cell-shaded environments, comedic surreal events and integrated exclusive artist content via streaming music & social platforms”. I got to sit with Bradley Bulifant, a social entrepreneur and Executive Producer of The Solar Games, to learn a little bit more about this amazing philanthropic project.
The Man Behind the Game: Bradley Bulifant
Jonaliza: Hey Bradley! Thanks so much for taking the time to speak with me about The Solar Game. I’m a bit of a gamer so I’m excited to get to play this game once it’s complete! Tell me, how did all of this come about?
Bradley Bulifant: I’ve always had a passion to find innovative ways to help people live a better life. About 4 years ago, I started working in Haiti after my community in Gainesville, FL realized that we had a sister city in Jacmel. We supported development through the arts as Jacmel is known as the cultural capitol of the country. To support Haiti, we hosted kids art events, concerts, won grants to film documentaries, and have coordinated about 15+ volunteer tourism and medical trips to help schools, orphanages and communities that need support.
While building this relationship with Haiti, I learned a lot about how larger NGOs tend to be insensitive to the local business communities by donating a lot of products, food and water that is available by local small businesses. The business can’t compete [with] free products [so] they go out of business. This practice has destroyed the successful agriculture industry in Haiti and has resulted in an aid-dependent state which is not sustainable.
Jonaliza: So, how did the Solar Game come into the picture?
BB: During the earlier rise of monetized apps, I thought up an idea for a game that would use half of ad revenue proceeds to plant trees in Haiti. But it wasn’t until a couple years later that I really began pursuing this with The Solar Games.
In 2011, after some time as a developer in the renewable energy industry, I was invited to join the United Nations Foundation’s Energy Access Practitioners Network to focus on using my expertise to support the Sustainable Energy for All Initiative. The network is comprised of professionals from public and private organizations that are really on top of the best practices for sustainable development; the focus is to find new ways to create electricity access to the 1.3 billion people without electricity.
The Solar Games = Access To Renewable Electricity
BB: To support the initiative, I started working on developing a small solar home system operation for Haiti that focused on product quality, technical capacity training, and micro-finance. These are the main things you need to support Haitian businesses.
During my work, I became friends with Neville Williams, a pioneer of the rural electrification industry. His advice to me was to find a means to sustainably fund the Haiti project and then we could create a scalable program to impact many people.
So, in order to bring renewable electricity access to 1.3 billion people, we needed to join forces with the larger industries in the world and find a way to introduce a sustainable profit incentive into development. Now that video games are a $67 billion industry, I dusted off my old tree planting game and began building the structure for The Solar Games.
With The Solar Games, the priority was to create a fun, competitive and new approach to a game that could stand on its own as a quality experience, but I wanted to selflessly use half of the profits as a micro-finance fund to support our Haiti electrification operation.
Jonaliza: How does this impact the world? Why should people care about it?
BB: Women and children are the most negatively affected by not having access to electricity. Typically, women in rural developing areas spend their time as the energy providers for their family by walking to markets, buying charcoal or Kerosene for lighting, etc., so the majority of their day is not spent working, going to school or spending time with their family. Kids are also negatively affected because they typically do not have ample lighting to study at night after school.
Sustainable Economic & Environmental Impact
This game will provide a means to have access to an affordable solar energy system that is [more affordable], provides clean energy, and will help kids study at night. Typically, families will pay for their system in 2-3 years and will then have decades of free electricity. Our goal is to finish our game and gain traction so we can compete with some of these games that are making millions a week. [That much money] will be able to help around a million people a year get access to electricity!
It’s important for everyone to realize that we can change the world. The technologies that have evolved over the past 5 years are giving us the ability to connect, fund and sustainably create economic and environmental impact just by playing a video game. We are going to have all the solar systems geo-tagged so as electricity is provided, the game players will get to see where they and their friends have changed a life just by having fun.
Jonaliza: That’s COOL stuff, Bradley. So, after you achieve success with this project, what do you plan to do next?
BB: We are launching our pilot in Haiti to prove the model. From there, we want to build game locations and electrification networks in Africa, India and Asia to support this good cause. We plan to build more games that can sustainably help a variety of other social, environmental and economic issues for people all around the world.
Spending the first ten years of my life growing up in a third-world country, I know first-hand the difficulties of not having electricity so this is something I definitely would like to see succeed. We all already spend so much time playing video games online or using a console, why not on one that will improve the lives of so many underserved people?
For more information about The Solar Games, or to find out how you can support this project (financially or by helping spread the word), please visit TheSolarGames.com or go directly to their Indiegogo campaign page.