Last week, I was fortunate enough to have a discussion with Stéphane Buthaud, the founder of HumanoGames, which is a video game company whose mission is to “change lives.” Mission accomplished.
Thanks to the game HappyLife, launched just one year ago, Facebook users can provide financial backing for the projects of small entrepreneurs all over the world.
This is how it works: Each player creates his or her own micro-business in the virtual world of HappyLife and re-invests the profits to help an entrepreneur get started in business in real life.
“A Project for Solidarity on a Global Scale”
Nothing in Stéphane’s background pre-ordained him to become a creator of games for the Web. After engineering studies and a Masters degree in International Business, he gained solid experience working for a number of NGOs on micro-finance projects; first in Bosnia, then Rwanda, China, Argentina, etc. Until the day he decided to found his own social enterprise.
What made him decide to create a game on Facebook? “It was the best possible way to foster solidarity and rally a community without borders around a common objective. I wanted to develop a solidarity project with a global reach, to help people who come up with projects, but who lack the means to get started,” Stéphane explains.
Really? A game on Facebook that could help in the fight against poverty…?
I was a bit skeptical the first time I played HappyLife. How could a simple social network game change the destiny of entrepreneurs from the most vulnerable communities on the planet? And yet, Stéphane’s project was convincing. I realized that this type of game has the power to create a new culture of solidarity among individuals, on a global scale.
Gaming to Change the World
With the G4Cs (Games for Change), the creators of video games have sought to get players involved in activities that could have a real and positive impact in the world, even while they are having fun.
Some of the most well-known G4Cs allow the players to step into the shoes of a refugee fleeing the food crisis (Food Force ) or conflict (Darfur is Dying ), or to work to prevent disasters (Stop Disasters ), deal with abject poverty in Haiti (Ayiti : The Cost of Life ), or come up with innovative solutions in communities in Africa (Evoke ), etc. And of course, there is HappyLife .
What makes HappyLife so original is its simplicity, as well as the fact that it is played on Facebook. The viral nature of the social network is such that the game can reach an ever-increasing number of people. By allowing the application to post messages on their walls, players may introduce their contacts to the game.
HappyLife Turns Virtual Profits into Real Money
Stéphane Buthaud and his company, HumanoGames have managed to create a revolutionary economic model in the form of a game that is profitable (it is funded largely by advertising), and promotes solidarity, thanks to a partnership with two micro-credit platforms: Babyloan.org  and Kiva . These platforms connect private individuals wishing to send small sums of money to entrepreneurs to help them start their businesses. That is the principle behind P2P, a process by which private individuals provide loans to each other.
Here is how it works, in a nutshell:
“In practice, once the player has accumulated 250,000 HappyCash (Virtual Money) and decides to use it to support a project, the virtual donation is changed into a real loan of 250 Euros, which will be paid to the entrepreneur to help him or her start a business. HappyCash is converted into real money thanks to the money advanced by us, HumanoGames, but which will be reimbursed once the micro-business is up and running,” Stéphane explains.
So far 700,000 players of HappyLife have already generated 50,000 dollars in loans for micro-entrepreneurs the world over.
Are there any future social entrepreneurs among you?
Has the HappyLife concept inspired you with any ideas?
We await your comments!