Games for Change

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Games for Change
FoundersBenjamin Stokes, Barry Joseph, and Suzanne Seggerman
Type501(c)(3) organization
FocusVideo games and virtual reality
  • New York City, New York
Area served
Susanna Pollack

Games for Change (also known as G4C) is a nonprofit organization. The organization provides support, visibility, and shared resources to individuals and organizations using serious games for social change.[1] It also runs the G4C Student Challenge, a STEM competition that teaches middle and high school students about game design and computer programming.


Games for Change was founded by Benjamin Stokes, Suzanne Seggerman,[2] and Barry Joseph in 2004.[3] The organization's first event was held in 2004 hosted by the New York Academy of Sciences and provided an opportunity for nonprofit organizations, foundations, and game developers to explore how digital games could be used to support impact causes.[4]

Games for Change Festival[edit]

The Games for Change (G4C) Festival is an annual conference in New York City that highlights games, technology, and immersive experiences. It was also called the "Sundance for video games and immersive media" by Forbes in 2019.[5] Each year, the festival has over 100 sessions across four programming tracks: Games for Learning, Civics and Social Issues, Health and Wellness, and XR for Change.[6] Many notable speakers have participated in the Festival, including U.S. Vice President Al Gore,[4] former Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States Sandra Day O'Connor,[7] and president of the Entertainment Software Association Stan-Pierre Louis.[8]

During the G4C Festival, the Games for Change Awards competition honors games that positively impact their communities and promote social good. While Games for Change organizes the awards program, winners are determined by peer review.[8] Past winners include Life Is Strange,[9] Discovery Tour by Assassin's Creed: Ancient Egypt,[10] and the Nintendo Labo.[11] Recent winners include Sky: Children of the Light by thatgamecompany and Dreams by Media Molecule.[12] In addition to its main categories (Best Gameplay, Most Innovative, Best Learning Game, Most Significant Impact, Best XR for Change Experience, Best Student Game), Games for Change also honors individuals with the Vanguard Award and organizations with the Industry Leadership Award.[13] In 2020, Games for Change honored Humble Bundle with the inaugural G4C Giving Award, recognizing its innovative fundraising methods that support charitable organizations.[14]

In 2020, Games for Change announced that the annual Games for Change Festival would be virtual for the first time in its 17-year history. It was also free to attend, introducing global attendees to how games and immersive media are being used for good.[15]

Games for Change Student Challenge[edit]

The Games for Change Student Challenge is a STEM competition that teaches middle and high school students about game design and computer programming. The program provides a game design curriculum for students and encourages them to create a game based on a social impact theme. Since the competition takes place in various locations (New York City, Detroit, Atlanta, and Los Angeles), Games for Change partners with local organizations to support each community.[16] For example, in 2017, Games for Change partnered with the Annenberg Foundation and Riot Games to bring the program to over 600 Los Angeles students, encouraging them to create games about wildlife conservation, news literacy, and kindness.[17]

Games curation[edit]

The organization also curates a continuously growing body of "digital and non-digital games that engage contemporary social issues in a meaningful way".[18]

The game Sweatshop is an example of a past digital game curated by the Games for Change organization. Launched in 2011 by Littleloud, it is strategy game about offshore clothing manufacturing.[19] The player plays the role of a factory manager responsible for hiring workers, completing store orders, and meeting the demands of clients while trying to balance ethical decisions with rising demands. The game has 30 levels that increase in difficulty and complexity, and introduce new worker types and real-world sweatshop problems such as fires, unions and the lack of toilets that add authenticity to the game mechanics.[20] The game utilizes the mechanics of tower defense, which have been used in many entertainment games such as Plants vs. Zombies. In Sweatshop, the clothing materials on the conveyor belt can be likened to “enemies”, and the factory workers who turn the materials into finished product can be seen as the defending “troops”. The use of tower defense mechanics allows the player to strategize how they will meet client demands in each level. The player must choose either to keep the workers safe and satisfied or sacrifice their well-being for factory efficiency,[19] and because of these difficult decisions the game has been known for its ability to evoke guilt in players. Many players have reported their struggle to keep workers safe when trying to win more difficult levels.[21][22] Littleloud worked with the British charity Labour Behind The Label to ensure the game was factually accurate, but due to controversy over its content the game was eventually removed from the Apple App store.[23]


  1. ^ "Gaming Wins New Advocates". The NonProfit Times. November 1, 2006. Retrieved September 18, 2015.
  2. ^ "Gaming Wins New Advocates". The NonProfit Times. November 1, 2006. Retrieved September 18, 2015.
  3. ^ Ferreira, Becky (May 1, 2016). "How Games Are Changing the Museum Experience". Vice (magazine). Retrieved September 16, 2020.
  4. ^ a b Toppo, Greg (April 21, 2014). "11 Years On, Games For Change festival Maturing". USA Today. Retrieved September 16, 2020.
  5. ^ Rowley, Melissa Jun (February 27, 2019). "Meet The Woman Behind The Sundance For Video Games & Immersive Media". Forbes. Retrieved November 20, 2019.
  6. ^ Takahashi, Dean (June 18, 2020). "Games for Change unveils sessions on mental health, diversity, and COVID-19". VentureBeat. Retrieved September 3, 2020.
  7. ^ Baker, Chris (April 21, 2014). "Sandra Day O'Connor: Game Designer". Wired (magazine). Retrieved September 3, 2020.
  8. ^ a b Takahashi, Dean (June 14, 2019). "Games for Change: How to make the Game Industry more Diverse, Accessible, and Meaningful". VentureBeat. Retrieved September 3, 2020.
  9. ^ Wawro, Alex (June 24, 2016). "Life Is Strange leads this year's Games For Change award winners". Gamasutra. Retrieved September 3, 2020.
  10. ^ Handrahan, Matthew (June 19, 2019). "Assassin's Creed Discovery Tour honoured at Games for Change Awards". Retrieved September 3, 2020.
  11. ^ Doolan, Liam (June 20, 2019). "Nintendo Labo Wins GOTY At The 2019 Games For Change Awards". Nintendo Life. Retrieved September 3, 2020.
  12. ^ "Games for Change lauds 'Dreams' and 'Sky: Children of the Light'". Yahoo! News. July 15, 2020. Retrieved September 3, 2020.
  13. ^ Takahashi, Dean (July 8, 2020). "Games for Change honors Gordon Bellamy of USC Games and Gay Gaming Professionals". VentureBeat. Retrieved September 3, 2020.
  14. ^ Watson, Eric (July 8, 2020). "Games for Change Awards G4C Giving Award to Humble Bundle". pixelkin. Retrieved September 16, 2020.
  15. ^ Takahashi, Dean (May 7, 2020). "Games for Change will go virtual with trailblazing speakers July 14 to July 16". VentureBeat. Retrieved September 3, 2020.
  16. ^ Chan, Stephanie (July 2, 2018). "Games for Change Goes Beyond its Yearly Festival with Student Programs". VentureBeat. Retrieved September 3, 2020.
  17. ^ Paresh, Dave (August 29, 2017). "Riot Games and Annenberg Foundation bring classes on making video games to L.A. schools". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved September 16, 2020.
  18. ^ "Games For Change Games". Retrieved April 12, 2018.
  19. ^ a b "Games For Change Sweatshop". Retrieved April 12, 2018.
  20. ^ "Sweatshop - Littleloud". Retrieved April 12, 2018.
  21. ^ "Human Dignity and the Bottom Line: Sweatshop". Retrieved April 12, 2018.
  22. ^ Morais, Betsy (December 7, 2012). "Anthropological Video Games". The New Yorker. ISSN 0028-792X. Retrieved April 12, 2018.
  23. ^ "Sweatshop HD no longer available in the App Store - Littleloud". Retrieved April 12, 2018.

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