Games for Change Festival Recap

Wow! What a Festival!

Thirteen must be our lucky number! Our 13th annual Games for Change Festival was a blast, thanks to our amazing speakers, sponsors, attendees, and volunteers who made it all possible.

We’d like to give a special thanks to our curators — Asi Burak (Neurogaming & Health track), Sara Cornish (Games for Learning Summit), and Matt Parker (Civics & Social Issues track) — for bringing together a truly spectacular program.

We’ve uploaded Festival photos to our Flickr, and in the next month, we’ll begin adding videos from nearly 100 sessions to our YouTube channel. In the meantime, catch up on the news from the Festival below!

CivilizationEDU, a modified version of Sid Meier’s Civilization V, will arrive in high schools in North America in fall of 2017. This announcement came from Take-Two Interactive Software, 2K, Firaxis Games, GlassLab, and the Entertainment Software Association (ESA) during Civilization series creator Sid Meier’s keynote at the Festival.

Developed by Firaxis Games, Sid Meier’s Civilization V has sold more than 8 million units worldwide. CivilizationEDU will provide students with the opportunity to think critically and create historical events, evaluate the ramifications of their decisions, engage in systems thinking and problem solving, and experiment with the relationships between military, technology, political and socioeconomic systems.

Read more about CivilizationEDU on Polygon and Classcraft.



The Festival featured finalists from the Games for Change Climate Challenge, an initiative presented by the PoLAR Partnership, Autodesk, and Games for Change that aimed to inspire people through digital games to tackle the problem of climate change at the local, regional, and global level.

Each of the four finalists presented their prototypes for their games in a live pitch session on-stage, with Eco, emerging as the big winner. Strange Loop Games, Eco’s developer, received a $10,000 grant for their game which allows players to build a civilization where everything you do affects the ecosystem. 

Congratulations to this year’s Games for Change Award winners! Life is Strange won big this year, with the Most Significant Impact, Mashable + G4C People’s Choice, and Game of the Year awards. DragonBox Numbers took home our first-ever Best Learning Game award.

  • Best Gameplay: Block’Hood
  • Most Significant Impact: Life is Strange
  • Most Innovative: That Dragon, Cancer
  • Best Learning Game: DragonBox Numbers
  • Mashable + G4C People’s Choice Award: Life is Strange
  • Game of the Year: Life is Strange

Each year, Games for Change gives an award to one person who has made extraordinary contributions to the impact games community. 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 work has included everything from game-inspired art, to commercial games that shift players’ thinking about biases and stereotypes. Flanagan established the internationally recognized game research laboratory Tiltfactor in 2003 to drive social change through games.

The 2nd annual Games for Learning Summit, one of the three tracks of Festival programming, was presented by the Entertainment Software Association (ESA) with support from Microsoft. The Summit brought together leaders in education, government, gaming, and edtech with talks by leaders from the White House, NYC Mayor’s Office, Unity, Code.org, PBS, BrainPOP, and the Department of Education. We learned about the possibilities for mixed reality, VR, and Minecraft in schools, explored business models with SBIR grantees, discussed accessibility and diversity in game design, and more.

Check out the Classcraft blog for in-depth coverage of the Summit.

Presented by the British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA), the Marketplace showcased over 20 new games, platforms, apps and programs for Festival attendees to explore. Demos included a VR exercise app, Schell Games’ new physical chemistry game Happy Atoms, games by Parsons students and winners of the G4C Student Challenge, Brazilian developer Mukutu Games, Google Social Good, software creator Ready, and an HTC Vive VR experience by MIT Media Lab and Isobar.

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