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Gaming for Good: Canadian Entrepreneur Looks to Help Flint Kids

New Brunswick entrepreneur Joshua Sallos has long been interested in both gaming and social justice, and was looking for an opportunity to combine both passions. With the ongoing water crisis in Flint, Michigan, Sallos found his next project.

Sallos is one of the minds behind Age of Agua, an upcoming mobile game aiming to teach children the importance of water conservation. Looking for partners, he reached out to the Flint Child Health and Development Fund (FlintKids.org), an organization focused on helping the younger generation rebound from the crisis. Age of Agua is set to launch on iOS and Android sometime in 2017, and all first day proceeds will benefit FlintKids.

Opportunities NB (ONB) spoke with Sallos to learn more.

ONB: Can you give us a bit of detail on the game?

gaming and social good Sallos: Age of Agua was initially conceived as a puzzle navigation prototype, but we decided to turn it into an application that teaches players the importance of water conservation. In the game you play as five engineers travelling the world looking for fresh water to bring to certain populations. It’s fairly straightforward in concept. For me it’s what is behind the game that’s important. We wanted to create a game that could help develop partnerships and do social good.

As a Canadian I realize how lucky we are to have good sources of fresh water. We don’t pay too much to get clean water, and we’re not forced to buy bottled; we’re quite fortunate. The Flint water crisis really struck me; it has been a reminder that living in North America doesn’t mean we’re completely free of water problems.

I’ve been looking for opportunities to help, and in this case it will be helping the Flint community. I began speaking to the director of FlintKids.org from there. All profits from first day game downloads will go to FlintKids, and we’re hoping to do more with them after that. They’re a wonderful organization.

It’s a mobile game, so we’re hoping to see the younger generation check it out, kids helping kids essentially.

ONB: How much will it cost?

Sallos: It’s a premium game, so we’re targeting $1.29 in Canada, and .99 cents in the U.S.

ONB: Tell us about your team. 

Sallos: The brains behind Age of Agua are from multiple companies. First there’s my company Sallos Solutions, which offers digital design and creative consulting. Gloomshade is running production out of Oslo, Norway, and they are partnering with our lead developer located in Prague, Czech Republic. Everyone was on board with the social justice aspect of the game, and the use of gaming as a platform for social good.

ONB: You spent several years in Montreal working with big names like THQ and EA Mobile. Why return to New Brunswick?

Sallos: This is the first time I’ve found myself both self-employed and working on something I really care about. As a New Brunswicker I’ve always wanted to find a way to return home while still doing something I’m passionate about. I’ve been given that chance with this project and I wanted to headquarter it here in my hometown of Fredericton.

I feel like there is a bit of an underground game development culture in Fredericton, and I like the idea of being able to draw attention to that, maybe even grow that sector here.

ONB: You’re now at Fredericton’s Planet Hatch. Tell us about that, and the entrepreneurial ecosystem you’ve worked in thus far. 

Sallos: I’ve noticed there’s plenty happening here with regards to entrepreneurship and small businesses. The support network is certainly stronger than when I left home over seven years ago. Planet Hatch is a great entrepreneurial network. It’s available for tenancy to people like me working on a project or for incubator programs. You work with some amazing local entrepreneurs that guide you through launching a startup company. I can’t recommend this experience enough.

Planet Hatch also connected me with ONB; I’m currently looking at joining the Game Developers Conference convoy in San Francisco via ONB and ACOA.

ONB: Based on your experience so far, what’s your best advice for entrepreneurs?

Sallos: My best advice is to not be afraid to ask for advice. Don’t hesitate to reach out to like-minded companies either; that’s something we’ve done and the result is Age of Agua. Not everyone will be able to offer direct assistance or a partnership, but they will steer you towards groups that can.

Follow @AgeofAgua on Twitter to get updates on the game’s official launch date.

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Images via Sallos Solutions