Read, Debate: Engage.

Change the Game

Author: Murat Suner

Interview with Sebastian Stier, Founder & CEO of Code Sustainable on the occasion of the U.S. launch of "Outbreak Responder" - a mobile game to fight malaria in both worlds, online and offline. 

Questions by fairplanet 

Particularly, these days when major conflicts and diseases like Ebola dominate the media, policies and public health activities Malaria doesn’t appear on our agenda. Do we have an awareness problem? 

Answers by Sebastian Stier

I think we have. Malaria seems to be far away for most people in the western world and when they travel to Malaria countries they just take anti malaria drugs for a couple of weeks. But for people living in affected areas the problem is massive and especially impacts pregnant women and children. Malaria is one of the biggest killers in developing countries. I don’t want to talk down the danger of Ebola, but some of the media hype surrounding it seems exaggerated. Recently I read that more Americans have been married to Kim Kardashian than have died of Ebola. That might put it into perspective.

Standing in front of the world’s largest gathering of public health specialists this week in New Orleans, Bill Gates  announced his plan to eradicate malaria globally within a generation. "I think there’s an amazing set of things we can do to help the poorest in the world.  I am very optimistic we can get there faster than the skeptics think." said Gates. Do you think that’s a realistic goal?

Many people don’t know that, malaria also was present in the US until about 1950. So it is possible to eradicate it. I appreciate that the Gates Foundation puts more focus on malaria, which also increases public awareness for the problem. And I always believe we need ambitious goals. Wether it is possible to achieve it in one generation I cannot evaluate, but let’s make Malaria a thing of the past. The sooner, the better. 

Sebastian, tell us a bit about yourself. You’ve spent a longer period in Africa, working on development projects, and then founded, back in Germany, the game developing company Code Sustainable. What’s the relationship between your experience and game developing? 

First, I must say, that I was not working on Malaria projects in Africa. I did part of my studies in South Africa and worked for a while in Ethiopia. What I encountered coming back to Europe was, that there is sometimes little understanding about the challenges developing countries really face. Thats why we sat down and thought with engaging and entertaining games we can reach a broad audience and inform them in a creative way about the most urging development issues. So I quit my job as strategy consultant and founded CodeSustainable to develop Outbreak Responder. 

Your game „Outbreak Responder“ was launched earlier in Germany and Switzerland, and now with the U.S. release it’s globally available. How is the response in Europe so far, and what do you expect from the U.S. market?

The US release is a big thing for us and with the Global Gaming Initiative we believe we found a great partner for the distribution. So far the game found its niche and casual players seem to like it a lot. But we need more players, because the game is so entertaining, that it would be fun for everyone to play. So let’s spread the word: Go to the App Store and play Outbreak Responder.

What is the desired impact of your game „Outbreak Responder“ on fighting Malaria? 

Outbreak Responder is a very high quality game about the fight against Malaria. Besides me only core game industry experts worked on the game. That is also the reason why entertainment, game mechanics, graphics etc. can compete with other professional games out there. Our goal with the game is to inform players on a subliminal level about how to fight malaria. We don’t want to bore people with vast amounts of text. People will learn about malaria just because they are interacting with the real dependencies between different countermeasures. 

You initiated a co-operation with the Global Gaming Initiative (GGI). What is GGi's mission and why does Code Sustainable collaborate with them? Do you co-operate with NGOs as well?  

GGIs mission is very similar to ours. We both want to create games, that have a meaningful impact. Meaning the a share of revenues is directly donated for the cause. In Outbreak Responder we are currently working together with Biovision Foundation and Malaria No More. We believe that Outbreak Responders offers for our partner NGOs a very valuable platform to reach out to audiences that would be difficult to reach otherwise. What drives us both, GGI and CodeSustainable, is the idea of what you can achieve if you are able to channel a share of the billion hours people spent with video games in games that are doing good.  

About Sebastian Stier
Sebastian holds a degree in Industrial Engineering and Management from Karlsruhe University where he focused on finance, accounting and IT. During his studies he spent one semester at Stellenbosch University, South Africa, focusing on development economics. Since 2008 Sebastian has been working as a consultant for the German based top management consultancy Roland Berger Strategy Consultants engaging in various projects on restructuring, business development and growth strategy. Before joining Roland Berger, Sebastian has been working on the “One Laptop Per Child” project in Ethiopia for German based development organization GTZ.

About Outbreak Responder

CodeSustainable’s Outbreak Responder is a time-management game that places the player in charge of malaria control projects. The game focuses on showing the general dependencies and relationships between the actions taken against malaria and its outcome.

Free Download of Outbreak Responder

USA and Canada or Rest of World

Editorial note

fairplanet is co-operating with CodeSustainable for a good cause