So maybe you’ve heard that video games can help you make better life choices, boost your creativity, and improve your vision. But did you know that game developers are also helping fund life-saving research, build new homes, and encourage Americans to get out there and vote?

And they’re not doing it alone. This list counts down five of the most innovative partnerships between game developers and high-profile organizations like the National Science Foundation. One step at a time, these partnerships are changing the way we live, learn, and play.

UN Habitat

1) United Nations Habitat and Mojang

The company behind Minecraft and United Nations Habitat have teamed up for a project called Block by Block. The goal of Block by Block is to let young people have a say in urban development. Participants will use Minecraft to show how they envision the urban spaces of the future.  The initiative is part of UN Habitat’s Sustainable Urban Development Network, which plans to update 300 public spaces by 2016. If you’d like to learn more, there’s already a Block by Block pilot project underway in Nairobi, Kenya, which you can check out here.

Trash Tycoon

2) Kraft Foods and Guerillapps

Kraft Foods and developer Guerillapps teamed up in 2011 to produce Trash Tycoon, an online social network game. The project also received support from Carbonfund.org, Treehugger, and TerraCycle, a company which specializes in making consumer products out of recycled materials. Trash Tycoon focuses on waste management, environmental awareness, and sustainability. Players receive points for collecting litter in the game’s virtual city and returning it to a recycling kiosk. You can also upcycle waste, such as Kraft cheese wrappers, and turn it into products that are more environmentally friendly. Sadly, the game was shut down in July 2012 so that its partners could focus on other projects.

WolfQuest

3) National Science Foundation, the Minnesota Zoo and eduweb

A 2007 partnership between the National Science Foundation and the Minnesota Zoo produced WolfQuest, an online game that lets players live the life of a wild wolf in Yellowstone National Park. The objective of the game is to teach players about wolf ecology and behavior. WolfQuest also supports an extensive community where you can talk to wildlife biologists, share artwork, and take online quizzes to test your wolf knowledge. The game has received several major updates over its lifespan, and supports both single and multiplayer modes.

Rock the Vote

4) Rock the Vote, Microsoft, Ubisoft and Epic Games

This election season, Rock the Vote is partnering with Microsoft, Ubisoft, and Epic Games to encourage youth to vote. Each of the three companies has produced an election tie-in to raise awareness about voter registration. For example,  Xbox has released an Election 2012 Hub channel on Xbox Live with a daily poll and news updates. In support of Rock the Vote, Epic Games has produced a brawler for the iOS called VOTE!!!! The Game. It’s free right now from the App Store, and it lets you brawl as either Obama or Romney using crazy props and outfits.

DonateGames

5) DonateGames and multiple game developers

Founded in 2008, DonateGames helps support kids with rare diseases by collecting and re-purposing used video games and consoles. The organization not only funds research at institutions like the Seattle Children’s Hospital, it also donates video games to hospitalized children. Over the past few years, several major companies, such as Valve, EA and Paradox Interactive, have jumped on board and donated to the cause. If you have games or gear that you’d like to contribute, check out the official DonateGames website at www.donategames.org.

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