Unity is the world’s leading platform for creating and operating interactive, real-time 3D content. With this game-changing platform, creators can build 2D and 3D content for almost any device imaginable – from PC and mobile phones to gaming consoles, XR platforms, and more.
I caught up with Unity’s VP for Social Impact Jessica Lindl to hear more about how this ground-breaking company is innovating for social good with their Social Impact division.
Afdhel Aziz: Jessica, welcome! Please tell us a little about Unity’s social impact division and how it came about?
Jessica Lindl: At Unity, we believe the world is a better place with more creators in it. This philosophy is centered around serving creators and is the beating heart of our company.
While we are best known for our roots in gaming, we’re seeing that our technology is also being used to drive meaningful social change — from creators who are imagining our futures and re-telling our histories from more inclusive perspectives. They are propelling creativity, creating experiences that connect more deeply to our global society. Their work is critical and profound.
The recent launch of our Social Impact division, which I have the pleasure of leading, is aimed at empowering creators of all backgrounds to foster a more inclusive, sustainable world. Positive change can come from anyone, anywhere, and we’d like to be a part of it.
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Aziz: It’s amazing to see how much creators have been able to harness the platform for social impact – was that a conscious effort on the part of the company?
Lindl: It certainly was, and it’s great to see. The Social Impact division was born from a conversation I had with Unity’s CEO, John Riccitiello about a year ago, when we were seated next to each other on a long return flight. One of the things we discussed was a term John called “enlightened capitalism,” and the fact that Unity could do well as a company while doing good.
That concept has actually been embedded in Unity’s values ever since it was founded, and Unity creators have been active in areas like education, sustainability, and health and well-being for years. The “eureka” moment from that flight was that we could and should do more to accelerate social change.
Aziz: So cool! Please tell us about some of the projects you’ve been associated with that you’re proudest of?
Lindl: We’re very proud of our inaugural Unity for Humanity Summit, it was both the first event hosted by the Social Impact division and Unity’s first ever virtual event. The response quite honestly exceeded our most optimistic expectations.
At the event, we announced the opening of the Unity for Humanity call for submissions, a program that provides technical, marketing, and monetary support for Unity creators building content for the betterment of the world. We had almost 250 submissions, with an astounding number from inclusive teams, submitting content relating to health and well-being, sustainability, economic opportunity, civil rights, and more. With so many submissions, it speaks to the power of the idea that technology can bring about real-world change, and that so many people are searching for sparks to make it happen.
Creators from more than 41 countries submitted, which gives me hope that we really are reaching a global audience, not just those in the US. And while we haven’t publicly announced the winners yet, I can say that I’ve been blown away by the creativity, inclusivity, and impact these projects represent.
We hope that some of the Summit’s attendees found that kind of inspiration. From Future Aleppo founder Alex Pearson connecting with funders to continue his work to help refugees rebuild their cities, to Black Terminus creator Damien McDuffie finding like-minded people to support building Black AR monuments that can turn neighborhoods into living museums – the feedback has been incredible.
Aziz: Please tell us about some of the creators that we should keep our eyes on, doing really groundbreaking work?
Lindl: I could pick any number of projects to highlight, as the ways that creators are using Unity never cease to amaze me. One that feels especially relevant right now is The Changing Same, an immersive, episodic VR experience where the participant travels through time and space to witness the connected historical experiences of racial injustice in America. It’s a respectful, haunting story infused with magical realism and Afrofuturism about the uninterrupted cycle of the 400-year history of racial terror — past and present.
Another experience that I really admire is Dot’s Home, which reminds us that for many Black and Brown Americans, there is an understanding that the U.S. land and housing system is rigged against them, and while the consequences and impact of said injustices are often explored, the choices that marginalized communities have had to make when navigating within the system have not. Dot’s Home is a video game that follows a young Black woman in Detroit living in her grandmother’s beloved home, as she travels through time to relive key moments in her family’s history where race, place, and home collide in difficult choices.
Lastly, another project I love is Baba Yaga, the latest VR narrative experience from the award-winning team at Baobab Studios. It has big-time star power involved — Jennifer Hudson is the executive producer, and the voice cast includes Kate Winslet, Daisy Ridley, and Glenn Close — but at its heart is a breathtaking, emotional example of inclusive storytelling that is hard to envision being told in any other way.
Aziz: Thanks for sharing! And finally, please tell us about the work you’re doing with the United Nations?
Lindl: As part of our first wave of Social Impact initiatives, we announced that Unity was joining the Playing for the Planet Alliance, a group of video game companies convened by the UN Environment Programme. By joining the Alliance, member companies pledge to take action to aid the environment in a number of ways, ranging from green activations in games to reducing emissions and plastics in video game products.
As part of this alliance, our specific Unity Social Impact commitment is to elevate and celebrate the Unity experiences that are made with an eye toward a positive impact on the environment or particularly eco friendly. Not only does this align with our overall goals for the Social Impact division, but it ensures Unity is taking an active role alongside other industry leaders in tackling the climate crisis.