Games for Change Festival Day 1 Highlights

Games for Change Festival Day 1 Highlights
Jane Kratochvil / Games for Change

Highlights from Day 1 Include Announcement of “CivilizationEDU,” Launch of the Video Game Pioneers Archive and “Life is Strange” as Multiple Award-winner at Games for Change Awards

 (NEW YORK, NY) June 24, 2016 — Yesterday, at the first day of the 13th Annual Games for Change Festival, organizers drew close to one thousand attendees who were treated to presentations by game industry leaders including Sid Meier, Christopher Weaver, Graeme Devine and more.

For the first time, Games for Change (G4C), the non-profit with the mission of advocating the power of digital games beyond entertainment, produced the Festival in three focused tracks: Games for Learning, Neurogaming & Health, and Civics & Social Issues, in collaboration with The New School’s Parsons School of Design.

Games for Change Festival Day 1 Highlights
Jane Kratochvil / Games for Change

A notable highlight from the first day of the two-day Festival came from a fireside conversation between Sid Meier (Co-Founder and Director of Creative Development at Firaxis Games) and Susanna Pollack (President of Games for Change). Meier’s Firaxis Games, alongside Take-Two Interactive Software, Inc., and 2K announced a partnership with GlassLab Inc., a nonprofit learning company, and the creation of CivilizationEDU. A modified version of Sid Meier’s Civilization V, CivilizationEDU will be brought into high schools in North America in the fall of 2017. The game will provide students with the opportunity to think critically and create historical events, consider and evaluate the geographical ramifications of their economic and technological decisions, and to engage in systems thinking and experiment with the causal/correlative relationships between military, technology, political and socioeconomic development.

Games for Change additional highlights from the day’s keynote and panel discussions:

  • Christopher Weaver (Founder and former CEO Bethesda Softworks), discussed why games are such potent tools in areas as disparate as military simulation, childhood education, and medicine. Additionally, on the heels of E3, Christopher spoke to his recent appointment as a research associate for The Smithsonian’s Lemelson Center for the Study of Invention and Innovation in their launch of the Video Game Pioneers Archive, an initiative to record oral-history interviews and preserve unique materials from the first-generation inventors of the videogame industry.
  • Magic Leap’s Chief Game Wizard Graeme Devineappeared on stage to share the startup’s vision for mixed reality in the classroom and making virtual objects appear in real life.
  • Erik Huey (SVP for Government Affairs, Entertainment Software Association), moderated a panel that included Nick Fortugno (Co-Founder and CCO, Playmatics) and Marc Ruppel (Senior Program Officer, National Endowment for the Humanities), where they discussed different aspects in the process of applying for grants, from both the funders’ and the applicants’ perspectives.
  • Annie Duke (World Champion Poker Player and Co-founder of HowIDecide.org), shared her journey from careers from behavioral scientist to poker player, and how her non-profit is interested in using entertaining games to create and improve healthy habit formation for decision making in youth.
  • Dr. Kevin Ochsner (Professor and Dir. of Grad Studies in the Dept. of Psychology, Columbia University) and Asi Burak (Board Chairman, Games for Change),discussed the latest opportunities and challenges in neuroscience research, including: our understanding of brain plasticity over the decades; how games could become vehicles for transformation and what other vehicles exist; how the brain deals with habits and the change of habits; how could we train the brain in specific domains and how experiences (through games) differ from reflective thinking and traditional learning.
Games for Change Festival Day 1 Highlights
Jane Kratochvil / Games for Change

Also, at the Festival, it was announced that Life is Strange was a multiple award winner of the Games for Change Awards. The game, which is a five-part episodic experience that sets out to revolutionize story-based choice and consequence games by allowing the player to rewind time and affect the past, present, and future, won the “Most Significant Impact,” and the “Game of the Year,” awards as voted on by a blue ribbon panel. They also were named the Games for Change x Mashable’s “People’s Choice Award” winner, as voted on by the general public in an online poll. Other game award winners included Block’Hood (for “Best Gameplay”), That Dragon, Cancer (for “Most Innovative”), as well as DragonBox Numbers (for “Best Learning” game). The ceremony was moderated by Jesse Schell (CEO, Schell Games), winner of the 2016 International Serious Play award for Save the Park, a free iOS game developed in partnership with G4C and the American Express Foundation to promote volunteerism in the nation’s parks.

Each year at the Festival, Games for Change gives an award to one person who has made extraordinary contributions to the games for change world. The Vanguard Award (formerly known as Game Changer Award), acknowledges significant contributions of a practitioner by being a champion, advocate, and mentor for a new generation of game creators. This year’s Vanguard Award winner is Mary Flanagan, a leading innovator, artist, educator and designer, whose works have included everything from game-inspired art, to commercial games that shift people’s thinking about biases and stereotypes. Flanagan established the internationally recognized game research laboratory Tiltfactor in 2003 to invent “humanist” games and take on social change through games.

Related: Games for Change Awards Finalists Announced