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Using Text Messaging to Effect Social Change

I’ve written about a lot of different uses for text messaging in our blog. But today I read an article about an organisation using it in a completely new way: Bully Text, a game, played via text message over the course of a day.

The group behind this game called The Bully Text, is DoSomething.org in partnership with Be Star and the World Wrestling Foundation (WWF). The game is aimed at North American students with the objective of raising awareness of bullying and to encourage action when a student sees someone being bullied. The program began back in 2012 and claims to have had 900,000 games of Bully Text played according to their website. Here’s how it works.

As the students move through a normal school day, they will receive text messages briefly describing a situation where their friend is being bullied. They then decide and reply with the action they would take based on the choices given. For example, they can choose to be silent or to speak up. If the student makes all the right choices they are awarded with a “yearbook superlative” from the game and a chance to win a college scholarship.

The game certainly has the potential to raise awareness. There isn’t any data on how it has affected bullying directly, at least not publicly. But awareness campaigns are just that, to get people thinking about a subject they might not otherwise know about, or to see it in a new light.

Beyond the social value of this particular example, what I found most interesting is the gaming aspect. Perhaps you’ve played 20 questions over text messages with a mate or family member when you were bored, but the Bully Text is an automated, large scale, repeatable game. It makes me wonder about other applications it could be used for in a gaming context.

I imagine full day adventures completely controlled by text messages. You get your first message in the morning when you wake up or leave the house. Throughout your day you follow the prompts to visit certain places, or perform certain actions, and reply when you’re done. Perhaps answer questions based on what you find there.

At the end there is some sort of a reward, or the opportunity to do something for a cause you believe in. Maybe the entire day would be spent working for some kind of social change. Or it could all just be for fun, the mystery of it all not knowing what you’ll be instructed to do next.

There is probably a more direct possibility for you to use the “game” approach in your business though. Think about it, get creative, and start a one of a kind campaign.

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