New G4C Festival keynotes: Sid Meier, Chris Weaver of Bethesda Softworks, Magic Leap, and more


Announcing more Festival keynotes!

Sid Meier, co-founder, Firaxis Games
Often regarded as “The Godfather of Computer Gaming,” Sid Meier is a co-founder and director of creative development at Firaxis Games. He has programmed, designed, and produced several popular strategy games, including the beloved Civilization series. Sid will join G4C President Susanna Pollack in conversation.


Christopher Weaver, founder,
Bethesda Softworks

Christopher Weaver founded Bethesda Softworks, a videogame publisher whose library includes the Fallout, The Elder Scrolls, and Dishonored franchises, and now teaches engineering and computational media at MIT and Wesleyan. He will discuss how games work and why they are such potent tools in areas as disparate as military simulation, childhood education, and medicine.


Graeme Devine, chief game wizard,
Magic Leap

Magic Leap’s Graeme Devine will share the secretive startup’s vision for mixed reality in the classroom and the technology that makes it possible to interact with virtual objects in real life. Step into Magic Leap headquarters in their profile in Wired for a peek at the powerful platform they’re promising.

Erik Huey, SVP of Government Affairs,
Entertainment Software Association

Erik Huey, SVP of government affairs at the Entertainment Software Association (ESA), will present the Games for Learning Summit’s opening address, discussing how the ESA supports and provides insights into the growing sector of games in the classroom.


Full Festival schedule now online

The full schedule for the 2016 Games for Change Festival is live! Start bookmarking your favorite sessions here.

Posted in G4C Festival | Leave a comment

G4C Festival: Our Civics & Social Issues track, curated by Matt Parker 🌍

G4C Festival 2016 Civics & Social Issues track

Announcing the 
Civics & Social Issues program

While we are excited to be branching out this year to support learning– and health-focused games, the heart of the Games for Change Festival has always been its focus on games that address civics and social issues. The Civics & Social Issues track highlights the medium’s ability to engage with contemporary concerns regarding social impact and responsible citizenship. Check out some select sessions and meet the track’s curator below!


Full schedule to be announced tomorrow on the Festival website.
We still have some surprises in store!




TALK: Games and the National Endowment for the Humanities
Join William D. Adams, chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), and USC professor and Game Innovation Lab director Tracy Fullerton for a conversation on making games for the humanities.



KEYNOTE: Girl Scouts guide to teaching STEM with games
Girl Scouts CEO Anna Maria Chávez explains how the Girl Scouts is developing a generation of social entrepreneurs and mentors to empower girls with the 21st-century skills and entrepreneurial know-how to succeed in business, improve their communities, and developing their own advocacy and service projects.

KEYNOTE: State of the Industry
Join former GameSpot editor and current managing editor of Feminist Frequency Carolyn Petit as she shares her insights about the current state of the gaming industry. Drawing on her unique experiences as a visible transgender woman at a major videogame site, Carolyn illuminates how certain limiting attitudes and ideas have become entrenched in games culture, and how we can challenge and subvert those ideas.

TALK: Reaching new audiences with interactive stories

Game designer Sam Barlow, creator of the critically acclaimed Her Story and current director of a reboot of War Games at Interlude, explores how telling stories within popular genres can pull in new audiences and enhance interactivity. Taking in notable examples that have looked outside traditional games for their inspiration, he then looks to the future of interactive storytelling.

TALK: Failing to Change
When we speak of our work, we like to focus on our successes. How does this help us learn as a community? It doesn’t! This session with Colleen Macklin, game designer, professor at Parsons School of Design, and founder/co-director of PETLab, focuses on failure and what it can teach us through a meditation on the meaning of failure in games for change and some painfully true stories from the field.


TALK: Playing with nuclear weapons
Paul Carroll of the N Square collaborative discusses how current games treat nuclear catastrophe as a backdrop to narrative, summarizes the current realities of the world’s nuclear weapons status, and shares how with their new game Epic Orphan will be more forward-thinking on how this subject is treated.


TALK: We all want to be in the room where it happens
Gigantic Mechanic co-founder Greg Trefry shares key design insights from making live-action games that combine theatrical elements, role-playing, and face-to-face interaction, such as the Senate Immersion Module for the Edward M. Kennedy Institute, games addressing complex issues, and games that facilitate imaginative play between parents and kids.

TALK: Comedy, games, and social change
Humor can play an important role in humanizing difficult situations and helping us feel empathy for characters. Writer, programmer, and visual artist Mx. Dietrich Squinkifer highlights examples of games that effectively use absurdity and silliness to tell memorable stories about living in the world as a marginalized person. You may even actually laugh at some point. Hopefully.

TALK: A global community for global change
Can a volunteer and collaborative approach be applied to game development and distribution? The nonprofit Video Games Without Borders (VGWB) has been experimenting with this approach for more than one year. Join VGWB founder and former Ubisoft producer Francesco Cavallari in analyzing the lessons learned through the development of the organization.

TALK: Empathy Overload: Choice matters
1979 Revolution creator and Grand Theft Auto veteran Navid Khonsari discusses the immense potential of connecting people through interaction and choice-making in games. Using the recent groundbreaking release of 1979 Revolution as a case study, Navid unpacks a bold world vision, and the rewards and pitfalls of making impact-forward, edgy, real stories into games.

TALK: How to be better at sex (in videogames)
Artist, scholar, and writer Robert Yang wants to talk about sex. Most people think sexual intercourse is important, and games should explore important topics, but most design methodologies for making videogames are breathtakingly terrible for depicting sex. Robert considers current popular attitudes about sex in games, common critiques, and better ways to do it all.


Meet the Civics & Social Issues curator:
Matt Parker is a game designer, teacher, and new media artist. His work has been displayed at the American Museum of Natural History, SIGGRAPH Asia, the NY Hall of Science, Museum of the Moving Image, FILE Games Rio, Sony Wonder Technology Lab, and many other venues.

From the curator:
Games are a powerful way to instill empathy and help people connect with others. This year, we are featuring games that use that power to help players identify with underrepresented groups struggling to have their voices heard; cast players in positions of power to confront their biases about how their government works; bridge gulfs between communities; and much more.

Games can help people understand nuanced relationships in ways other media cannot, and we are very proud to be highlighting some of the most impactful games that do just that, whether from organizations dedicated to improving our world or designers using their art to convey meaningful messages.

Posted in G4C Festival | Leave a comment

The Entertainment Software Association and G4C present the Games for Learning Summit



The Games for Learning Summit, presented by the Entertainment Software Association (ESA) and Games for Change, with further support from Microsoft, is open to all Games for Change Festival attendees. The program will include workshops and talks from a cross-section of thought leaders from academia, government, gaming, edtech, and social innovation.
Check out these Summit highlights and meet its curator below!



Full schedule to be announced soon on the Festival website.
Stay tuned for info on our Civics & Social Issues track!



OPENING REMARKS: Entertainment Software Association
Erik Huey, SVP of Government Affairs for the Entertainment Software Association, presents the Summit’s opening address, discussing how the ESA supports and provides insights into the growing sector of games in the classroom.


KEYNOTE: Magic Leap
Magic Leap’s Chief Game Wizard Graeme Devine shares the startup’s vision for mixed reality in the classroom and making virtual objects appear in real life.


1506_made with unity_crop

KEYNOTE: Unity Global Education
Megan Stewart, director of Unity Global Education, gives an overview of how games are affecting change across industries and inspiring youth toward careers in game development.


TALK: Minecraft Education
Minecraft Education director Deirdre Quarnstrom shares what’s new in Mojang and Microsoft’s efforts to bring Minecraft to students and teachers around the world, including its new portfolio feature.


PANEL: Virtual reality in the classroom with Google, Valve, and Blippar

Is VR the ultimate in immersive learning? What’s real and what’s hype? Hear how VR is reimagining the classroom experience, helping teachers deliver content and expand the scope of learning with Des Plaines School District 62 CTO Jennie Magiera, Valve VR evangelist and writer Chet Faliszek, Jonathan Rochelle of Google Education, and Blippar’s head of education Colum Elliott-Kelly.


PANEL: Computer Science for All: Putting students in the driving seat
Learn how students in NYC are learning to code and make games both in and outside of school, and what needs to happen next to make computer science a new literacy. Hear from NYC CTO Minerva Tantoco, CSNYC Director Michael Preston, teacher Matthew Farber, and Debbie Marcus, CS4All director at the NYC Department of Education.



PANEL: Women and girls in gaming
How can education support more women and girls to create a more diverse games industry? What obstacles will we need to overcome to do it? Hear from director of the University of Southern California (USC) Games program Tracy Fullerton, Joan Freese of PBS SciGirls, and Girls Make Games founder Laila Shabir.



TALK: Breaking into the education market

Games for Learning blogger Sande Chen discusses strategies for entering the learning games market. Learn about the challenges facing game creators, educators and administrators, and how games can provide transformative experiences in the classroom.



WORKSHOP: AbleGamers’ includification

In this workshop led by AbleGamers President Mark Bartlet, participants will learn about “includification,” the non-intimidating process of making sure your games can be played by more people. The workshop will look at games meant to support innovative learning, but the lessons and ideas are universal.

PANEL: Games for early-childhood learning
Play is a powerful way to engage young learners eager to explore and create. What have we learned about the needs of early learners and creating effective age-appropriate content that supports their growth? Panel includes leaders from The Fred Rogers Company, PBS Kids, CodeSpark, and Toca Boca, moderated by Katrina Stevens of the U.S. Department of Education.

WORKSHOP: Classcraft: Where the student becomes the hero
Learn firsthand how a role-playing game can foster stronger student collaboration and classroom management from the creators of Classcraft. This game making workshop will introduce participants to the core mechanics that make a game engaging in the classroom.


Meet the Games for Learning Summit curator:
Sara Cornish leads G4C’s learning programs including the G4C Student Challenge, a social impact game design challenge. She also manages strategic partnerships and development.




Posted in G4C Festival | Tagged | Leave a comment

Games for Change Festival: Introducing our new Neurogaming & Health track


Announcing sessions in the
Neurogaming & Health track

For the first time ever, the Games for Change Festival will feature a Neurogaming & Health track that highlights collaborations between researchers and developers who are producing games with remarkable, measurable outcomes. Check out this track’s speakers and meet its curator, Asi Burak, below!


Coming soon: more info on our Civics & Social Issues track and the Games for Learning Summit!


Sea Hero Quest

Saving the human mind
Within 24 hours of launch, Deutsche Telekom’s mobile game to fight dementia, Sea Hero Quest, reached over 140,000 downloads. Wolfgang Kampbartold, VP at Deutsche Telekom (DT), will share more on the game’s success and explain why a global telecom leader has decided to invest in crowdgaming.


From Fantasy to Empathy: Changing game dialogue for the real world
Kognito writers Jennifer Hepler, who previously wrote the Dragon Age series at Bioware and many other commercial titles, and Seth Bleecker present how game dialogue can encourage us to be more empathetic.


Psychology and game design at Valve
Valve’s senior experimental psychologist Mike Ambinder takes attendees behind the scenes of the maker of Half-Life, Portal, and more. Take an in-depth look at Valve’s game design process, how they measure the impact of their decisions, and how this applies to games aiming to affect the real world.


Hacking neuroscience with OpenBCI
In this surprising live demo with an audience volunteer (will it be you?), the hackers, programmers, and researchers of OpenBCI present a first-hand look into open-source platforms for biosensing and brain-computer interfaces. 

Neurosky Star Wars Force Trainer
Star Wars Force Trainer
NeuroSky CEO Stanley Yang breaks down the history of NeuroSky biosensors and their integration into commercial toys, from their Star Wars Force Trainer and beyond.

syncself 2
Moving mindfully using wearable technology
Speaking about the development of VR and neurogaming, artist Karen Palmer shares her interactive film fusing parkour and gaming, Syncself 2, and reveals the process behind her current project, Riot, an immersive video installation.


Zombies, Run!

Zombies, Run! and Overwatch
Six to Start CEO and founder Adrian Hon presents his studio’s ongoing work in health apps and their game Zombies, Run!, which boasts 2.5 million players. Get a look at their new game for wearables, codenamed Overwatch.

Videogames and meditation
Robin Arnott, the award-winning creator of SoundSelf, a 2014 G4C Awards nominee, analyzes meditation as game design and argues how meditation systems can be adapted and even improved by modern videogame technology.  

Snow World
VR and Snow World: Working with burn victims
Ari Hollander, co-founder and CTO of DeepStream VR, highlights VR project Snow World‘s potential to reduce pain for severe burn patients. Clinical trials show dramatic reductions in pain, plus patients report feeling less anxious when they have VR to help them through the painful procedure.


The quest for FDA-approved games
The road to FDA approval is long and expensive but promising studies have encouraged acclaimed neuroscientist Dr. Adam Gazzaley to move his game from the lab into the commercial world. Project: Evo has already shown solid results in children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).


Rewiring the Brain: Anxiety treatment
A new health game, Seeing the Good Side, developed by American University‘s Game Lab in collaboration with the National Institutes of Health, seeks to leverage hidden-object puzzles to provide a “gaming regimen” for children with anxiety.



Meet the Neurogaming & Health Curator: Asi Burak
Asi Burak, the chairman of Games for Change, is a veteran of the videogame and technology industries, and an award-winning executive producer and designer. For the past five years, he served as the President of Games for Change (replaced by Susanna Pollack).

From the curator:
“It’s exciting that the Festival features a Neurogaming & Health track for the first time, so it’s all fresh and we’re engaging new communities with games for change. We tried to bring a broad perspective — from top-down efforts funded by government, to successful private ventures, to open-source indie communities and even neurogaming as art.”

Posted in G4C Festival | Leave a comment

G4C Industry Circle: Amplify Games on extending learning in and outside of school


We are pleased to present our last article in our 2015/16 Industry Circle series, which aims to acknowledge the achievements and challenges in the growing social impact games industry. We hope you enjoy the following article from Amplify Games, and we’ll see you at our Google Hangout Q&A with the Amplify team on May 10! RSVP here.
G4C Industry Circle Amplify Games


At Amplify Games, we are focused on the importance of extending learning both in and outside of school.

We all know that high-quality digital tools and interactive experiences can add great value when well integrated into classroom instruction. But we also know that instructional time is extremely limited and educators always have a great deal of material (often too much) to cover. Have you ever heard a teacher say, “I have too much time with my students and not enough content to fill that time”? Of course not! That’s why our mission at Amplify Games is to captivate students with educational games that will motivate them to increase the amount of time they spend and their engagement with complex texts and ideas, both in the classroom and in their free time.

Here are some lessons learned from our experiences creating learning games that might help you design games that excite and engage students.

We partner with world-class game designers so the students who play our games don’t have to give up the exceptional graphics and production value they expect from their favorite games. The games were designed by commercial game designers and studios in collaboration with leading academics and pedagogy experts to help strengthen engagement and skills in English language arts (ELA), math, and science.


As one student said, “I’ve been playing games for my whole life, but I never knew there would be a game that I would love that was for learning. That shocked me so much. … It reminds me I’m just sitting home in my man cave, just playing and playing.” (Yes, this 6th grader has a man cave for game playing, so you know he’s a tough critic!)

It’s not enough just to make educational content sufficiently palatable so that students can stomach the learning component, while still considering the learning part to be yucky. So our approach is to actively inspire students and help build their confidence in key academic domains including algebra, life science, and the close reading of literature.

We spent three years conducting iterative playtesting with over 1,000 students, developing our relationships with groups of playtesters over 8- to 10-week sessions to get the most useful feedback. Now these students have evolved a framework for thinking about key academic topics—they say they’re considering a career in medicine after playing our science games or that our math games “helped me realize that you can do anything with numbers.”

The more time students have with such learning games, the more room for these transformational moments. And when students play engaging games outside of classroom instruction, they get incremental exposure to critical academic topics and skills. That’s why we encourage schools to identify opportunities for students to access our games outside the typical class schedule. Some schools set aside rooms where students can play the games during lunch and after school; others allow the students to take tablets home at night and on weekends. Our ELA games are integrated with a digital library of over 600 texts, ranging from classics to contemporary, fiction and nonfiction; along with the games, students can benefit from extended access to this library outside of class.


A recent report by Common Sense Media shows that on average, students ages 8 to 12 spend almost 4.5 hours of screen time every day, not including time spent for school or homework. For teens, that number increases to over 6.5 hours every day. With Amplify Games, educators can reclaim some of that screen time for extended reading and learning, without cutting into their valuable and limited instructional time.

For more about our game design philosophy and school implementations, join us on May 10 for a special G4C Industry Circle Google Hangout. We’ll discuss how our goal to create meaningful games for extended voluntary play translated into the guiding principles for our development process, and we’ll share insights from our research about how students are engaging with our games outside the classroom.

Posted in Industry Circle | Tagged | Leave a comment

More G4C Festival talks // Early-bird pricing ends tonight!

2016 Games for Change Festival banner

Time is almost out!
Early-bird rates on Festival passes
expire tonight!

Your last chance to pick up early-bird passes to the Games for Change Festival (June 23-24) is tonight at 11:59 p.m. EST. Register now and save $50!


Announcing more speakers!

Here are just some of the speakers you will hear from at the Festival’s three tracks: Games for Learning, Neurogaming & Health, and Civics & Social Issues. Miss our first announcement about speakers? Check it out here.
Civics & Social Issues
This track highlights games’ ability to engage with concerns around social justice and responsible citizenship.

William Adams
Chairman, National Endowment for the Humanities

Sean Vanaman
Designer and writer, Firewatch

Sam Barlow
Developer, Her Story

Games for Learning
Hear from emerging leaders in game-based learning at our second annual Games for Learning Summit.

Graeme Devine
Chief game wizard, Magic Leap

Deirdre Quarnstrom
Director, Microsoft Education

Porter Stowell
Head of strategy and business development, IBM Serious Games

Neurogaming & Health
These sessions will explore the interactive experiences that aim to improve our brains and bodies.

Mike Ambinder
Experimental psychologist, Valve Corporation

Robin Arnott
Developer, SoundSelf

Stanley Yang
CEO, NeuroSky
Posted in G4C Festival | Tagged | Leave a comment

Games and Media Summit wrap-up


Back from the future:
Games and Media Summit wrap-up


On Monday, we hosted our second annual Games and Media Summit at the Tribeca Film Festival. Here are some highlights!

  • $20,000 raised for GameChanger Charity: In our Playing for Change charity game-a-thon, celebrity livestreamers CaptainSparklez and Tom Syndicate raised nearly $20,000 for GameChanger Charity, which brings video games to terminally ill children in hospitals. 
  • $10,000 awarded in Feed the Pig game design competition: Artist Scott Garner won a grand prize of $10,000 for his game concept, Yesterday’s Tomorrow, which explores how your choices affect the future by visiting the future. The Feed the Pig Challenge tasked game developers to create a game to engage young Americans to think differently about savings, debt and financial security.
  • Challenge of Diversity winner received $10,000 grant: Interlude announced the winner of a $10,000 production grant for The Challenge of Diversity, a competition where the game developer and filmmaker communities were asked to collaborate and create an interactive series. Check out the winner’s and finalists’ videos here.
  • 14 interactive games and experiences: From games with costumes as controllers to augmented and virtual reality, the G4C Arcade at the Summit highlighted games’ powerful potential and gave a glimpse into what they’ll look like in the not-too-distant future.
  • Sold-out panels and sessions: Videos coming soon to our YouTube channel! The Summit featured talks on community cultivation, mental health, cognitive therapy, gender and diversity, and more.

Posted in Games and Media Summit | Tagged | Leave a comment

Games for Change Festival early-bird deadline extended!


Early-bird deadline extended!


We’re extending the deadline for early-bird passes to the Games for Change Festival! Register by April 29 to save $50. Don’t forget to check out our first look at Festival speakers.


Posted in G4C Festival | Tagged | Leave a comment

Announcing the first G4C Festival speakers!

2016 Games for Change Festival banner

Announcing the first keynote speakers!

This year’s Games for Change Festival offers three tracks, each with their own lineup of stellar speakers: Games for Learning, Neurogaming & Health, and Civics & Social Issues.



Games for Learning
Hear from emerging leaders in game-based learning, including a keynote by Magic Leap’s Chief Game Wizard Graeme Devine and a panel on VR in the classroom featuring Valve, Google Education, and Blippar. Then go hands-on with Minecraft Education, includification advocates AbleGamers, and the live-action roleplayers at Classcraft in our workshops.


Neurogaming & Health
Take a deep dive into the interactive experiences that aim to improve our brains and bodies. NeuroSky CEO Stanley Yang breaks down the history of NeuroSky biosensors, from their Star Wars Force Trainer and beyond. Six to Start CEO and founder Adrian Hon presents his studio’s ongoing work in health apps and their game Zombies, Run!, which boasts 2.5 million players.


Civics & Social Issues
This track highlights games’ ability to engage with concerns around social justice and responsible citizenship. Girl Scouts CEO Anna Maria Chávez speaks about encouraging girls in STEM and video games. Feminist Frequency managing editor Carolyn Petit, who collaborates on the Tropes vs. Women in Video Games series and reviews games from a feminist perspective, delivers our annual State of the Industry.
Posted in G4C Festival | Leave a comment

Tonight: Games and Media Summit regular registration pricing ends!

Games and Media Summit

Not many passes remain for the Games and Media SummitPass prices increase tonight at 11:59 p.m. EST, so be sure to get yours and save now.

(Please note the Games and Media Summit and Games for Change Festival are separate events that require separate registrations!)



Games and Media Summit - Program

The Games and Media Summit program features talks from NYU professor Ken Perlin, neuroscientist Dr. Adam Gazzaley, Twitch and YouTube gaming stars, the creator of the critically acclaimed game Her Story, Monument Valley makers ustwo, and the pioneers behind biofeedback in Major League Baseball.

Games and Media Summit - Arcade
Immerse yourself in other worlds at the G4C Arcade, open all day at the Summit. Try VR experiences that bring documentary filmmaking to life, play games that react to your emotions, wear costumes that function as game controllers, explore museums through augmented reality, and more.

Posted in Games and Media Summit | Tagged | Leave a comment