Games for Change
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Games for Change (also known as G4C) is a movement and community of practice dedicated to using digital games for social change. An individual game may also be referred to as a "game for change" if it is produced by this community or shares its ideals. "Games for Change" is also the name for the non-profit organization which is building the field by providing support, visibility, and shared resources to individuals and organizations using digital games for social change.
Games for Change,[clarification needed] founded by Suzanne Seggerman and Benjamin Stokes, is often considered a branch of serious games focused on social issues and social change. Its members represent hundreds of non-profit directors, game developers, artists and academics—a network committed to social change through gaming.
The movement first emerged as Games for Change at a Serious Issues, Serious Games' conference held at New York Academy of Sciences on June 8, 2004. The invitation-only event gathered 40+ foundations, academics and nonprofits for a day "to mobilize support for a medium with growing importance for nonprofits." The event was organized with the support of the Woodrow Wilson Center for International Scholars and Serious Games Initiative, after several nonprofits at their December, 2003 gathering  in Washington, DC noted the need for a dedicated space for those working on social change with nonprofit organizations. The NYC event served to jump-start the space, and was organized by Suzanne Seggerman of Web Lab, Benjamin Stokes of NetAid, Barry Joseph of Global Kids, David Rejeski of the Woodrow Wilson Center for International Scholars and Thomas Lowenhaupt of the Queens Community Board.
The movement grew legs after the first gathering as it launched an email listserv dedicated to games and social issues and began holding satellite events at various events, including the Game Developers Conference, the Serious Games Summit, Education Arcade at E3, Games and Learning Conference, Taicon and several others.
The annual Games for Change Festival has since been held in 2005 at CUNY and in 2006 with Parsons The New School for Design In 2011, the Festival moved to the Skirball Center for the Performing Arts at New York University.
One example of how Games for Change leverages the resources of major foundations is its relationship with the AMD Foundation. Games for Change was chosen to be the founding partner by the AMD Foundation for its signature education program, “Changing the Game”, which enriches the educational experience of young people aged 13 through 18. The initiative enables youth to learn critical STEM skills, become globally conscious citizens, and contribute solutions to social issues by creating their own games. The program now has added partners across the US and Asia, including Beijing Game Design Workshop & Technology Lab, Boys & Girls Clubs of America, and Malaysian Cybergames Festival 2010.
Games for Change is accountable to its board of directors, advisory board, funders, partners, peers in the field, and to the public. It shares its outcomes and reports to these stakeholders in several ways: it prepares reports and evaluations for funders and partners; informs the public and peers through its annual Festival, events, talks and Web site; and also shares results with peers through reports, whitepapers, and presentations.
The Games for Change Festival
Since 2004, Games for Change has hosted the Games for Change Festival in New York. Often referred to as “the Sundance of Video Games”, the Games for Change Annual Festival is the biggest gaming event in New York City. It brings together leaders from government, corporations, philanthropy, civil society, media, academia, and the gaming industry to explore the increasing real-world impact of digital games as an agent for social change. In recent years, the Games for Change Festival has become the most important place to launch a new initiative because it is the best way to connect with the various stakeholders in the field. The festival also showcases some of the most innovative new games in production with its annual “Demo Spotlight,” which gives select game developers the opportunity to present their projects on the main stage of the festival to a panel of designers and funders for feedback.
The 8th Annual Festival (June 20–22, 2011) featured more than 40 hours of content: talks, game case studies, workshops, a live game arcade, the 2nd Annual Games for Change Awards Show, and social events. Vice President at the time, Al Gore delivered the opening keynote. Other featured speakers included Pulitzer Prize-winning author Sheryl WuDunn (Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide), Laura Pincus Hartman of Zynga.org, game guru Jesse Schell, and James H. Shelton III of the US Department of Education.
In 2013, the event featured a Hall of Fame to celebrate its 10th year. 5 Games were added that represent the best games in social impact for the last decade. The games were Hidden agenda game, Meritt Kopas's Lim, Lukas Pope's Papers, Please, Cheavvleir's Vigiliance 1.0 and Lindsay Grace's Critical Gameplay Wait.
Past festivals have included talks by Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, U.S. Chief Technology Officer Aneesh Chopra, author and journalist Nicholas Kristof, and more. Past festival archive can be found at the organization’s festival page.
The Games for Change Awards
The organization hosts the Annual Games for Change Awards held during the Games for Change Festival. The Awards recognize excellence in “games for change” that address current and pressing social issues. As of 2011, four awards are bestowed:
- The Direct Impact award: for games targeting specific audiences with proven outcomes
- The Knight News Game award: supported by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation to recognize a range of games featuring current events, documentary subject matter, infographic or news data, puzzles, literacy, community engagement, or that exist as a news platform
- The Learning and Education award: to games designed to highlight and/or teach specific topics in the classroom or in informal learning environments
- The Transmedia award: for games that are part of a larger cross-media campaign
- Hall of Fame
Past winners have included Fate of the World, Inside the Haiti Earthquake, and EVOKE.
Games for Change collects a growing catalog of case studies on a variety of game projects. With in-depth data on project budgets, funding sources, distribution models, reach, and efficacy, these case studies offer games for change creators valuable insight into game production from concept to release. Case studies include such games as iCivics, PeaceMaker and Darfur is Dying.
Games for Change has gone global with several chapters hosted in different regions around the world.
In France, the Chamber of Commerce in Valenciennes supported the establishment of Games for Change Europe. Seeing an opportunity to link games with economic development, the government launched the first European Games for Change Festival in May 2011.
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