Chicago G4C Meetup founder Anuar Andres Lequerica has recently held the first get-together at Columbia College, drawing about 15 attendees, with many others watching online over Google Hangout and Skype. Anuar had three objectives for the initial meeting: discussing the fields of games for learning and games for change, identifying local key players and ongoing projects, and determining how to establish a strong, focused community moving forward.
Despite having several big institutions and funders in the city, these disparate projects did not have a location to meet up and discuss their work. So, drawing on his network of contacts from academia and industry, Anuar started organizing meetings.
The big players in Chicago’s scene include foundations, nonprofits and charters, such as the MacArthur Foundation, the Hive Learning Network and ChicagoQuest, the sister school to New York City’s Quest to Learn. The Field Museum (Chicago’s natural history museum) and Shedd Aquarium are also working on game-based learning. While there’s no one break-out, triple-A gaming studio in Chicago, Anuar said, the tech scene continues to grow in the city. He credits Columbia College’s fast-growing game design and programming majors with jumpstarting the development scene.
“The Chicago Games for Change event went great,” he said. “The meeting had people from different organizations, including Hive, academia, consultants and game developers.”
Attendees discussed local projects and initiatives, including a game to teach ethics in theinsurance industry, a new research and development center for games related to sexual education at the University of Chicago, a “serious games” certificate program being developed at Elmhurst College and a new consulting firm that helps schools incorporate entertainment and digital games into their curricula.
To start or grow a chapter, Anuar (pictured right) suggests organizers be very clear about the meetings objectives and highlight how attendees will benefit. He recommends spreading the word through email, Facebook and Twitter, and contacting local press.
The Chicago meetup’s next steps are to establish a website featuring local games for change, news and events, which they expect to have up and running within a week or so. Check out the meetup’s upcoming events here.