Category Archives: Social Justice

Making the World Better by Playing Video Games

Congratulations to an amazing festival at Games 4 Change (G4C) in NYC!!
The opportunity to design socially responsible games has arrived with serious excitement. The mission is to actively contribute to the development of game simulations and play experiences that have ideological and activist agendas. The destination is experimental learning and investigation into social and global issues…
I’d like to share some highlights from G4C, beginning with an all-day workshop teaching how to use games to fulfill social issues missions titled, “Let the Games Begin: A 101 Workshop on Making Social Issue Games.” The next two days investigated the best practices of social issue game design while increasing the accessibility of games among educators, game scholars, journalists, non-profit leaders, philanthropic entities, and industry experts. Throughout the festival, panels addressed hot topics such as games and journalism, funding challenges, public media initiatives, gaming in the classroom, and impact assessment. Featured panelists included game designers Chris Crawford and Ken Eklund (MY HERO!); Mary Flanagan, director of the Tiltfactor Lab; Tracy Fullerton, director of the USC Electronic Arts Game Innovation Lab; and representatives from the MacArthur and Knight Foundations, TVO, PBS, The United Nations and many interesting others.
James Gee and Eric Zimmerman (in lieu of Henry Jenkins) opened the conference with a keynote conversation focussing on the vision and future of the public interest gaming community. The closing keynote was presented by the Honorable Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, who spoke with humor and wisdom about a new interactive civics education project that she is developing with James Gee. A quick google search finds at least 23 press articles covering Justice O’Connor’s Joysticks for Justice:
My favorite review piece about G4C 2008 is from Fortune magazine on youth making games.
Also of interest, here’s the tv coverage from NY1:
The Games Expo Night hosted by Microsoft showcased the latest social issues games in development. Microsoft also presented the games designed by finalists from the Xbox 360 Games for Change Challenge. As part of Microsoft’s Imagine Cup competition, this global, socially responsible game initiative challenged game designers to: “Imagine a world where technology enables a sustainable environment.” Teams created games using Microsoft’s ground-breaking new XNA Game Studio 2.0 and the six finalists were flown in from around the world to present their games at G4C. I hope that City Rain will win so good luck to this team from Brazil!! City Rain is a single player 3D “Sim City meets Tetris” game where players learn about urbanism, ecology, and maintaining a sustainable environment. As buildings drop from the sky, players need to strategically place them on the grid so the community can grow while still being ecologically mindful. Addicting, meaningful fun.
Overall, the festival was super organized, the diverse panels were well-prepared and intoxicating with ideas, and the social networking was top notch. Delicious food was provided in abundance and sweet wine was free flowing for all. I wonder how G4C can top this experience next year!  
Bye, PJ 😉