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Games for a cause

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At the recent GamesCom convention in Cologne, Germany, a startling new trends became apparent, writes game designer JADE MATHIESON.

Your typical gamer is no longer young, white and male. Nor are games strictly for entertainment. The principles behind game design are being applied in other areas, including education and training, public health, advocacy for social causes, and improving organisational productivity.

With South Africa’s high rates of smartphone adoption, games provide a new channel to engage customers, employees and the general public.

Those were some of my insights from GamesCom, Europe’s biggest gaming convention which took place recently in Cologne, Germany. It’s not quite as big as E3 in Los Angeles, but it still attracts all the best-known names in gaming. The Germans accommodated an estimated 350 000 visitors and over 900 companies.

A number of “games for a cause” made me sit up and take notice. Here are some of them:

1. Antura and the Letters

With hundreds of refugees fleeing the conflicts in Libya and Syria, many children are being denied the opportunity to learn. Antura and the Letters is a game designed to help such children become literate in Arabic. The game engine appears solid and could be re-skinned for other languages.

2. Antidote

Created by Pyson Games, Antidote teaches children about stem cells and the immune system. Their aim is to challenge some of the unscientific beliefs that have become commonplace during the Trump presidency. But even though the game is based on scientific facts, it is a classic defense strategy game with nice graphics and engaging gameplay. The game shows that it is possible to take complex subjects like the immune system and dry facts, and turn them into fun learning experiences.

3. Across the Line

The decision to abort an embryo isn’t an easy one. Yet many women who should have the right to choose what happens to their bodies are subjected to ridicule and scorn by protestors outside abortion clinics. Across the Line, which I didn’t see but heard about at GamesCon, uses virtual reality to allow others to experience what it is like to live through the taunting and thereby can create empathy. Other possible applications of the concept can help bridge differences on other divisive topics by allowing people to immerse themselves in the experiences of others.

4. Lost Words

Expanding the vocabulary of children doesn’t have to be as boring as telling them to consult a thesaurus each time. In Lost Words, a player is tasked with choosing between words to explore a story. Each word choice leads down a different narrative arch, encouraging players to think about what the words mean. As the story unfolds, they can use more words to change their environment – illustrating nicely the adage that the pen is mightier than the sword.

* Jade Mathieson is a game designer and creative lead at Sea Monster. She headed up the team behind Old Mutual’s Moneyversity website, among other.

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SA startups in Visa final

Leading fintech companies from the Sub-Sahara Africa technology startup community have made it to the finals of Visa’s Everywhere Initiative.

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Among the 12 chosen, from the 238 total entries, South African startups Howler and FinChatBot will compete against innovators from across Sub Sahara Africa for a chance to secure funding of up to US$50,000 to develop their ideas when the initiative concludes in Johannesburg on July 24. 

Fintechs in Africa are making incredible strides; not only to bring more convenience to consumers, but also to enable people who would not otherwise have access to financial services or even a way to connect to the formal banking system. Venture funding for African startups jumped by 51% to $195 million in 2017 and fintech in Africa is expected to grow exponentially in the next few years as it continues to disrupt the traditional financial sector. With a clear goal of reducing reliance on cash, building digital payment based economies and increasing financial inclusion, Visa is committed to fostering an entrepreneurial spirit and driving innovation in its payments landscape. 

The Sub Saharan Africa edition of the Visa’s Everywhere Initiative challenged local fintech startup to deliver solutions based around three real life business challenges: 

  • How can startups leverage Visa Developer APIs to either:  Enable smaller merchants to accept payments in-store digitally OR Provide a safe and secure solution for online merchants to drive eCommerce and reduce cash on delivery?
  • How can startups use Visa’s APIs to leverage mass reach and social media partner platforms like Facebook to help businesses operating in fast-paced consumer centric environments improve cash flow and receive payments? 
  • How can startups leverage technology to provide services that are functional for illiterate customers to provide them with secure transaction experiences that build and enhance their confidence in the banking system?. 

Entrants were asked to submit ideas to leverage Visa’s network and technologies to resolve against at least one of the challenges. One winner per brief will be selected, with each receiving funding of US$25,000. Winners will be invited to a working meeting with Visa and may be presented with the opportunity to create a prototype. Visa will then select one overall winner to receive an additional US$25,000.

Geraldine Mitchley, Senior Director – Digital Solutions, Sub-Sahara Africa, Visa, said: “We are delighted with the response to our Visa’s Everywhere Initiative and the quality of submissions we received is an indication of the region’s rich talent pool and innovative spirit.”

“Launching this innovation program in the region has been an exciting time for the Visa SSA team, and the takeup reflects Africa’s enthusiasm to develop and pioneer solutions to the continent’s challenge – particularly in the payments technology space. I would like to congratulate the finalists and  wish them luck as they enter the final stretch.  When they come together for the final, they will not only have the chance to turn their ideas into reality, but also potentially help shape the future of payments in the region.”  

Howler which enables cashless transactions and end-to-end ticket handling for consumers and event organisers is competing in the first challenge and FinChatBot, which aims to automate part of customer services for financial service providers through AI-powered conversations is competing in the third challenge. 

The SSA edition of the Visa’s Everywhere Initiative will wrap up on July 24 in Johannesburg, with each finalist having an opportunity to pitch their ideas to a panel of expert judges from Visa and the payments industry. 

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Win a Poster Heater with Gadget and Takealot.com

This winter Gadget and Takealot.com are giving away three Poster Heaters, which look like posters but become heaters when you plug them in.

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Three Gadget readers will each win a unit, valued at R550 each. To enter, follow @GadgetZA and @Takealot on Twitter and tell us on the @GadgetZA account how many Watts the heater consumes.

What’s the big deal about these heaters? Many of us are struggling to keep the balance between soaring electricity costs and the need to keep warm this winter.

However, the recently launched Poster Heater by EasyHeat and distributed in South Africa by Takealot.com is not only one of the most cost effective electric heaters currently on the market, it is also easy to setup and use.

As the name indicates, it is a poster similar to one you would hang on a wall. But, plug it in and it turns into a 300 Watt heater. The Poster Heater isn’t designed to heat hallways or large rooms, but rather smaller ones like a bedroom or a baby’s nursery or a dressing room.

It uses radiant heating, which means that it heats up in a couple of minutes and the heat is directed at the objects or people around it, quickly taking the chill out of the air and providing a comfortable ambient temperature.

The other advantage of radiant heating is that it doesn’t dry out the air like infrared or gas heaters. Users also don’t have to worry about their children or pets getting too close to it because, even though it gets hot, it can be touched.

To enter the competition follow the steps below:

Competition entry details:

1. Follow @GadgetZA and @Takealot on Twitter. (We will ONLY be accepting entries via Twitter, so please don’t enter through the comments section of this article.)

2. Tell us on Twitter, via @GadgetZA, mentioning @Takealot in your posting, how many Watts the Poster Heater consumes.

cleardot.gif3. The competition closes on 31 July 2018.

4. Winners will be notified via Twitter on 1 August and Takealot.com will be in touch to organise delivery.

5. The competition is only open to South African residents.

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