Filament Games shares how to promote civics education through serious games

  YouTube Live Q&A Session with Filament Games (March 1)

In our third installment of the G4C Industry Circle series, Filament Games and will share the four P’s of designing learning games with impact. Join our YouTube livestream on March 1 at 3:30 p.m. EST to learn more and ask them questions.



Promoting Civics Education through Serious Games

By Filament Games

In today’s political climate, it’s important to remember that there is a strong link between civic knowledge and civic engagement. Simply put, our system thrives if Americans understand how our government and its branches work. In fact, our public schools were founded to teach young people to understand these structures, and to cultivate informed citizens. Yet students are growing up in an uncivic-minded era. More than ever, there is a concern that young people are not voting and are becoming disillusioned with the political process.

Filament Games has been working for years to address this issue with their partner, which was recently named one of 2017’s Most Innovative Education Companies by Fast Company. With a reach of over 7 million students, 155,000 registered teachers, and users in all 50 United States, the platform is having a massive impact on how America teaches civics.

Filament has partnered with over the years to publish a total of 19 civics learning games on their platform. Efficacy has been measured by multiple research organizations, providing fascinating insights into the positive impact that game-based learning can have on civics education and teaching outcomes in general:

But what fuels the efficacy of these games? Over the years, Filament Games and iCivics have developed a game and platform design methodology with a dedicated focus on purpose, process, practicality, and playability. Carrie Ray-Hill, iCivics Director of Content, recently unpacked this methodology in an article titled “The 4 P’s of Designing Learning Games with Impact,” published on the Filament Games blog. This methodology drives impact in each game through successful incorporation of learning objectives, design and platform choices that engage the player in a way that sticks, and in a way that supports the larger educational effort of

To learn more about how games can support civics education, tune into our G4C Industry Circle YouTube livestream on March 1 with Filament Games, a two-year member of the Industry Circle. Dan White and Dan Norton, co-founders of Filament Games, will be joined by Carrie Ray-Hill of iCivics for a discussion about the 4 P’s of designing impactful learning games, the community stewardship that helps to inform a bipartisan take on our country’s governance, and, with an eye toward the future, how Filament is helping update the existing iCivics platform and games to better support classrooms and districts as they increase tablet utilization.

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Submit your ideas and games to the 2017 G4C Festival

Games for Change Festival 2017

Submit your ideas and games for this year’s Festival by March 15

We are now accepting submissions for our 2017 G4C Festival, taking place on July 31 – August 2 in New York City. We welcome your ideas for sessions (talks, panels, workshops and demos) and game nominations for our annual G4C Awards. A limited number of submissions will be selected and receive complimentary passes to the Festival.

The Festival is a platform for all voices and backgrounds, and provides an opportunity to celebrate and reinforce G4C’s core values: diverse perspectives, creative and progressive thinking, respectful dialogue, and collaboration across industries and sectors. As such, our team of Festival curators will strive to highlight the work and achievements from underrepresented communities.

The deadline for all categories is March 15 at 11:59 p.m. EST. We look forward to hearing from you!


The 2017 Festival will focus on emerging areas in the impact games sector, each as a unique track of programming:

  • Neurogaming & Health
  • Civics & Social Impact
  • Games for Learning
  • VR for Change Summit

Have an idea for a talk that doesn’t fit in one of these tracks? Don’t worry — presentations, discussions, demos and challenging ideas outside of these topics are welcome, too!

Deadline: March 15, 11:59 p.m. EST




Each year, we celebrate the year’s best social impact and learning games at our G4C Awards ceremony and an on-site arcade of the Awards finalists for Festival attendees to play. If you have launched or will launch a game between January 1, 2016 and March 31, 2017, then go for it!

Categories include: Most Significant Impact, Most Innovative, Best Game Play, Best Learning Game, and Game of the Year.

Deadline: March 15, 11:59 p.m. EST

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G4C Student Challenge open for submissions


Deadline to submit games is April 1

Games for Change has opened the submission portal for the second annual G4C Student Challenge. Games must be submitted by April 1, 2017. Middle and high school students in Pittsburgh, Dallas and New York City public schools are eligible and encouraged to participate. Games must be about one of the three challenge themes — Future Communities, Climate Change, and Local Stories & Immigrant Voices — and playable on a web browser. Access the submission portal here, and learn more about how to get involved here.

G4C is pleased to announce a partnership with the National STEM Video Game Challenge, for a new prize category, the Games for Change Prize. Students nationwide are welcome to submit games designed to help people learn, improve their communities, and contribute to making the world a better place. Students participating in the G4C Student Challenge are also eligible to submit their games to the STEM Challenge. The deadline is May 1, 2017. The STEM Challenge is hosted by the Joan Ganz Cooney Center at Sesame Workshop, E-Line Media, and founding sponsor the Entertainment Software Association (ESA).

About the G4C Student Challenge
The G4C Student Challenge is a digital game design competition that invites students to create games about issues impacting their communities. As part of the national program, G4C offers game design courses for students in select public schools facilitated by teachers trained and supported by national curriculum partner Mouse. Winners receive prizes from Ubisoft and local civic and cultural organizations. An awards ceremony and exhibition of student games will be hosted in each city in June 2017, and grand prize winners will be honored at the 14th annual G4C Festival (July 31 to August 2) in New York City.


Participants & Partners
The program website provides multimedia content about each challenge theme, and over 150 resources for both students and teachers, including a gallery of example games and Get Started Guides to help students begin their game projects and teachers introduce game-based learning to their classrooms. Professional game designers serve as classroom advisors to students, and game jams in each city offer further opportunities for students to learn game design and programming, and deep dive into the theme topics with local historians, technologists and scientists.

Over 2,000 students have participated in the program, and over 90 teachers have been part of the professional development program from nearly 70 different schools, the majority of which receive Title I funding. Through the Challenge’s hands-on game design program, students develop 21st-century skills such as systems thinking and inquiry-based learning by both designing games and engaging in civic problem solving. Teachers learn to use game design as a teaching tool, and communities benefit from students’ active engagement in local issues.

The G4C Student Challenge program is run by Games for Change in collaboration with Mouse, Institute of Play, the Sprout Fund and Big Thought, with generous support from the National Endowment for the Humanities, Best Buy Foundation and The New York Community Trust.

G4C is currently seeking partners for the 2018 program. If you are interested in becoming a supporter or bringing the challenge to your city, please email us at

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How Schell Games empowers their teams working on transformational projects

  YouTube Live Q&A Session with Schell Games (Jan. 31)

In our second installment of the G4C Industry Circle series, Schell Games shares their Transformational Games Framework. Hear even more about how their studio applies this process to a variety of games at our YouTube Live session with Sabrina Culyba, principal designer at Schell Games, on January 31.



Empowering teams working on transformational projects

By Schell Games

Schell Games is an independent game studio based in Pittsburgh with an unusually diverse project history. From the studio’s inception nearly 15 years ago, we’ve tackled many unique design challenges running the full spectrum of games and game-like experiences — from mobile apps and theme park rides to interactive toys and virtual reality. For the past five years in particular, we’ve created a number of games designed not only to entertain and engage players, but also to change them. At Schell Games, we call these Transformational Games.

Happy Atoms combines a digital app with a physical modeling set. Students create molecules with the physical set, scan them with image recognition technology in the app, and explore the molecules they discover through guided chemistry quests. Happy Atoms began as an internal passion project at Schell Games, with production development supported in part by the Institute of Education Sciences, U.S. Department of Education, through the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program. Chemistry is a broad topic, and this project used the Transformational Framework to help the team make decisions on where to focus their efforts to improve student intuition and curiosity in relation to atoms and molecules.

We have a strong design culture at our studio that relishes new challenges and working with unusual constraints. We find both challenges and constraints in plenty of supply when working on Transformational Games. While these projects can be exciting and rewarding in terms of their potential positive impact on the world, teams working on these games often struggle mightily with issues like working with diverse stakeholders, unfamiliar domain content, and defining what it means to be successful.


Night Shift is a game designed to train emergency room doctors to make better decisions about whether they should transfer patients. This project is a collaboration between Schell Games and the Department of Critical Care Medicine in the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, funded by the National Institutes of Health and currently in trials to evaluate its effectiveness. This project used the Transformational Framework to help navigate the needs of a very specific and technical audience.

To help our teams become more confident and effective in addressing these issues, we’ve developed a pre-production tool we call the Transformational Framework. This Framework is really a series of exploratory questions that drive the first phase of the development process, covering eight critical topics:

  1. High-Level Purpose: What is the big-picture goal for impact on the world that is motivating your game’s development? How does this impact goal compete with other goals like profit, popularity, or critical acclaim?
  2. Audience & Context: Who is the audience for your game — not only those who will play it but the gatekeepers and community members that will also affect the game’s impact? Where, when, and how often will the game be played and how will that help or hurt the game’s effectiveness?
  3. Barriers: What things stand in the way of your purpose and how you want to change your players? Why aren’t they already changed?
  4. Player Transformations: What are the defining ways you want your players to be different after playing your game?
  5. Expert Resources: Who or what are the people, books, etc., that you consider authoritative sources of insight and feedback on your domain and how will you integrate them into your process?
  6. Key Concepts: What is the critical content from your subject matter that your game experience needs to be embody? And just as importantly, what content will be excluded?
  7. Supporting Research: What pre-existing theory and case studies are informing your choices?
  8. Assessment Plan: How will you and others determine if your game is effective?

Image 3-Transformational Framework_Schell-Games

We’ve found working through the Transformational Framework helps everyone on the team better understand how to contribute to the direction of the game, even if they don’t have formal training in the game’s subject matter. Because the Framework drives many critical conversations early in the process, it helps teams and clients uncover mismatched assumptions before development is too far along. The Framework also gives our teams a shared language that they can use when discussing lessons learned between projects.

PlayForward is a game designed to help at-risk teens develop the skills they need to make smarter life choices, thereby reducing their exposure to HIV. This game was developed in partnership with Yale University’s play2PREVENT lab and has been the subject of a multi-year clinical trial to evaluate its effectiveness. As the first big Transformational Games project at Schell Games, this project was a huge inspiration for development of the Transformational Framework.

At Schell Games, we have a simple shared philosophy: we make things we’re proud of, with people we like, to make the world a better place.  We use the Transformational Framework as a tool to help our teams be more successful in this work, and we’d love for you to use it in your process, too.  To learn more about using the Transformational Framework, join us on January 31 for a special G4C Industry Circle YouTube Live session.

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2017 Games for Change Festival dates and location announced

The 2017 Games for Change Festival will be July 31 to August 2 in New York City.

It’s a new year and a new Festival!

Our annual Games for Change Festival returns to The New School’s Parsons School of Design in New York City for its 14th edition on July 31 to August 2.

Based on overwhelming feedback, we’re bringing back the three tracks we introduced last year:

  • Games for Learning Summit
  • Neurogaming & Health
  • Civics & Social Issues

And don’t miss our networking opportunities, Awards Ceremony, and the G4C Marketplace, where you can showcase your new games and products to Festival attendees. We have a few new surprises in store, too.

Keep an eye out for the call to submit your talk ideas and games to our Festival within the next month. In the meantime, check out the recap of our 2016 Festival and videos of past talks on our YouTube channel.

For partnership opportunities, please contact Cindy Goldberg at

Make sure you’re signed up for our newsletter to get the latest updates on the 2017 Festival.

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Games for Change Migration Challenge: A $10,000 game design competition on migration

G4C Migration Design Challenge

Send your game ideas about migration integration for our $10,000 challenge!

The integration of migrant populations has always been an important issue faced by many countries all around the world. Integration is a two-way street, with native-born and immigrant populations both experiencing significant change, challenges and opportunity. How can a game help people understand and work through concerns over perceived job competition and changes in the cultural fabric while recognizing the economic, linguistic, and cultural benefits that can accrue to the broader society when immigrants can also succeed? How can a game experience emphasize community engagement to help migrants and their neighbors improve their understanding of each other?

This is where you come in. In partnership with the Migration Policy Institute, Games for Change is hosting a $10,000 migrant game design challenge that hopes to inspire the creation of a game that connects existing and migrating communities. We want to address the importance of how integration is a two-way street, with both communities experiencing drastic new conflicts and opportunities that are unique to cultural integration.

The challenge is open to entrants from all around the world and requires no previous development experience to submit game design ideas that will engage the players to think about the long term effects and issues of migrant integration in their own lives and communities.

Submit your game idea!

Key Dates:

  • January 10: Submissions open
  • February 15: Deadline for submissions
  • March 15: Winner selected


One selected winner will receive $10,000.


Read the official rules and guidelines for a complete background, competition guidelines, and criteria.

Resources from the Migration Policy Institute:

Posted in Design Challenge | 24 Comments

In NYC? Come to our next Talk and Play event for a panel, arcade, and book launch

Talk and Play Series: Power Play book event banner
Games for Change is pleased to invite you to a special panel of pioneering game makers with a hall-of-fame video game arcade, all part of an early launch of the book Power Play: How Video Games Can Save the World.

The event is co-hosted with Playcrafting, as part of their Winter Expo featuring the work of more than 200 independent developers. Registering for this panel gives you FREE access to the Winter Expo.


  • Asi Burak, co-author of Power Play
  • Susanna Pollack, G4C president
  • Amy Sterling, executive director of EyeWire
  • Navid Khonsari, creator of 1979 Revolution

Authors Asi Burak (G4C chairman) and Laura Parker (co-author and journalist) will sign copies of Power Play after the panel! If you can’t join the event, you can pre-order the book here.

Register Here

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Games for Change is looking for social media, communications, festival, and operations interns!

We’re looking for interns who are interested in getting involved with games for social impact.

By working with us, you’ll gain an in-depth understanding of the video games industry (especially games for change!) and get a behind-the-scenes look of a nonprofit. Our interns are active participants in team meetings and work closely with our staff.

Interns will support the following programs:

  • Games for Change Festival: Our annual 800-attendee event in New York City that celebrates the positive impact of games.
  • G4C Student Challenge: We’ve launched our second Games for Change Student Challenge, a new game design program for middle and high school students, in New York City, Dallas, and Pittsburgh.
  • G4C Industry Circle: Our program that acknowledges the achievements and opportunities in the games for change sector by highlighting leading studios that have made a significant contribution to our community.

Internships are for school credit only, and applicants must be attending school or recently graduated. See below for more details on each internship and how to apply. We look forward to hearing from you!

We are accepting applications for the following positions:



The Social Media Marketing Intern will support Games for Change’s social media channels on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn to promote the work of G4C and its community far and wide! This is a collaborative role that involves working closely with the G4C team.

Start date: January 16
Location: New York City or remote
Duration: Minimum 12 weeks, 20-24 hours per week


  • Draft social media content for Games for Change’s social media accounts on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn
  • Help manage our social media and communications calendar for multiple G4C programs including the annual G4C Festival and National Student Challenge
  • Schedule approved posts via Tweetdeck, social media scheduling tools
  • Research leaders and influencers in key areas for G4C programs
  • Provide monthly reports from Google Analytics and social media tools
  • Research industry news and updates from game developers
  • Add posts to the Games for Change blog

Key Qualifications:

  • You have excellent grammar, writing, and research skills
  • Ideally, you have experience running or creating content for social media accounts for an organization, company, blog/media or brand.
  • You have active accounts on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, and are familiar with scheduling tools such as Tweetdeck or Hootsuite.
  • Know how to collect and report social media metrics
  • Basic photo-editing skills for editing photos and screenshots
  • Knowledge of Excel, Word, Google Docs
  • Comfortable with WordPress and HTML
  • Driven to complete tasks on time and able to switch gears quickly
  • Ideally knowledge of and/or interest in video games


  • Weekly commitment of minimum 20 hours/week; minimum of 12 weeks.
  • Internship is for school credit only. Applicants must be enrolled in a college or university level program and eligible to receive school credit

How to apply:
To apply, please send an email with the subject line “G4C Social Media Intern” to Meghan Ventura at meghan (at) Please send your resume as an attachment and include the following information in the body of the email:

  • Availability (hours per week) and location
  • School, program and expected graduation year
  • 3 sample tweets about the G4C Festival written as if from the @G4C Twitter account.
  • Your favorite game and an overview of your interest in and experience with games (design, play, etc.)
  • Details on any prior related internship experience



Games for Change is seeking a Festival Production Intern to support our  NYC team on a range of production needs for the 2017 Games for Change Festival.

The ideal candidate will be an enthusiastic and driven production assistant, with experience in event planning and production. This is a collaborative role that involves working closely with the G4C team.

Start date: January 16
Location: New York City
Duration: Minimum 12 weeks, 16-24 hours per week


  • Support G4C Festival production team (Executive Producer and Producer) in daily activities across a range of festival development and production projects
  • Conduct research on partnerships, sponsorships, venues, vendors, and technology
  • Communicate and manage outreach to partners, speakers, and sponsors
  • Coordinate travel plans, volunteer outreach, and website content


  • Experience in event, festival or media production
  • Highly organized, detail-oriented, efficient, and capable of working in a fast-paced environment
  • Very reliable, self-motivated, and proactive
  • Strong communication skills and ability to work with remote teams
  • Experience working with interactive media a plus
  • Must be able to work at G4C office in NYC
  • Currently or were recently enrolled as an undergraduate or graduate student

How to apply:
Please send an email with subject line “Festival Production Intern” to Meghan Ventura at that includes your resume as an attachment. Include the following information in the body of the email:

  • Availability (hours per week) and location
  • School, program and expected graduation year
  • Details on any prior related internship experience



Games for Change is seeking a Communications Intern to support the NYC team on a range of communication needs including writing, blogging, social media, and research, helping promote the work of G4C’s community! This is a collaborative role that involves working closely with the G4C team.

Start date: January 16
Location: New York City or remote
Duration: Minimum 12 weeks, 20-24 hours per week


  • Pitch, write and post content to the G4C website (e.g., blogs, interviews, video and media)
  • Research and manage databases of games, organizations, programs, and developers
  • Help develop G4C social media strategy; draft content for Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube
  • Review and report on games for G4C Arcades
  • Help manage inquiries for G4C programs and consulting services
  • Compose overview documents and concept decks
  • Support G4C team across range of projects and community events, including Challenges, Festival, and Arcades


  • Highly organized, detail-oriented, efficient, and capable of working in a fast-paced environment
  • Experienced in writing/blogging and social media
  • Able to prioritize and execute without sacrificing quality
  • Comfortable with WordPress, HTML, Microsoft Office, Google Docs
  • Demonstrate exemplary written and verbal communication skills
  • Experience with Adobe Suite, graphic design and/or photo editing software (preferred)
  • Passion for games for social change and interactive storytelling
  • Internship is for school credit only. Applicants must be enrolled in a college or university level program and be eligible to receive school credit

How to apply:

Please send an email with the subject line “Communication Intern” to Meghan at Please include your resume, any writing samples, and a brief cover letter that explains:

  • Your interest and relevant experience
  • Your availability starting in January 2017 (hours per week)
  • School, program and expected graduation year



Games for Change seeks an administrative intern to support our NYC office.

 Start date: January 16
Location: New York City
Duration: Minimum 12 weeks, 20-24 hours per week


  • Support G4C staff in daily activities and collaborate on special projects, as assigned
  • Help us keep our office organized, and file and scan documents
  • Assist with billing and bookkeeping
  • Conduct research on games, game-related programs, tech opportunities and interventions, and game developers

Key Qualifications:

  • Very reliable, self-motivated, and proactive
  • Passion for and interest in social impact games and video game development
  • Highly organized and detailed-oriented
  • Strong communication skills and ability to work with remote teams
  • Internship is for school credit only. Applicants must be enrolled in a college or university level program and be eligible to receive school credit


To apply, please send an email with the subject line “Operations Intern” to Meghan Ventura at Please send your resume as an attachment and include the following information in the body of the email:

  • Availability (hours per week) and location
  • School, program and expected graduation year
  • Overview of interest and experience with social impact games (design, play, etc.)
  • Details on any prior related internship experience
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A Five-Point Collaborative Framework for Making Health & Science Games




We are pleased to present the second edition of the Games for Change Industry Circle, a program that acknowledges the achievements and opportunities in the impact games sector by highlighting leading studios that have made a significant contribution to our community. We hope you enjoy the following piece from Margaret Wallace, CEO of Playmatics, and that we will see you at our YouTube Live session and Q&A with Playmatics on December 15 at 12 p.m. EST. 



5-point framework for making health and science games

By Margaret Wallace, CEO, Playmatics

We live in an amazing time filled with enormous possibilities and many important challenges to overcome. With the emergence of revolutionary new computing platforms, like AR/VR and new technologies, we’re undergoing a major paradigm shift. There’s no better time to be innovating as far as games go and, given what’s at stake, perhaps most urgently in terms of health and science games.

Founded in 2009 by Margaret Wallace (CEO) and Nicholas Fortugno (CCO), Playmatics has roots in games as entertainment, both original and branded IP. The company has since moved into games with strong scientific, research, and health-care intervention components. Our work has been used as a mechanism to support smoking cessation, a device to aid attention training, a means to teach about pterosaurs, and a tool to advance citizen science. Knowing how to collaborate with science and health experts is critical for making games that satisfy often very specific criteria that may eventually impact thousands of lives.

What follows is a framework for collaborating with healthcare professionals and scientists for games. It’s less of a how-to manual and more about the sensibilities one must cultivate to work effectively with people from scientific disciplines outside the game industry. We use this approach with neuroscientists, behaviorists, academics, museum curators, and fellow entrepreneurs.

1. Scientists & Game Creators Part of the Same Team
Science Game Lab (SGL) is an online portal for providing researchers around the world with tools to integrate citizen science games into global leaderboards and more. Made with Dr. Benjamin Good and The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI), we built APIs (application programming interfaces) based on Playmatics designs and held many subsequent discussions with scientists to assess needs. We could have never anticipated many SGL features without this dialogue.


Science Game Lab developer tools panel | The Scripps Research Institute / Playmatics

When scientists, researchers, game designers, and developers operate as part of the same team, magic happens. Experts remain part of the team for the entire product lifecycle: inception, development, research, and commercialization. Without key stakeholders involved throughout, it could be nearly impossible to create fun games that satisfy clinical or research aims.

2. Respect Expertise
As much as teamwork matters, individual areas of expertise must be acknowledged and heeded. Game developers can never assume they’re experts in neuroscience, for example, and neuroscientists probably ought not see themselves as expert game designers. It’s a delicate balance as far as the final product is concerned.

Consider Pterosaurs: The Card Game a companion piece for an exhibition at the American Museum of Natural History (AMNH). The process for making this card game and mobile app educational, fun, and in line with this major museum exhibition entailed working with curators, subject matter experts (SMEs), and conducting design workshops with target audience members all treated as “owners” over their specific knowledge areas.


Pterosaurs: The Card Game | Courtesy of the American Museum of Natural History

3. Determine Desired Outcomes Up Front
For health or science games, it’s useful to articulate up front your desired outcomes and how the user experience can help achieve them. Ask questions like how do you define project success? What player faculties are tested? How are player actions measured and evaluated? Determine these desired outcomes in tandem with tracking the usual key performance indicators (players, monetization, retention, attrition) from the outset.

For Pterosaurs, if we had not established desired outcomes at the beginning, game developers and SMEs might have been distracted with too many possibilities, perhaps going beyond scope or utility. Examples of initial goals mandated by The American Museum of Natural History and Playmatics included utilizing the vast materials being generated by the Museum to go along with the Pterosaurs exhibition. Another goal was to create a game with a short session length and a low barrier to entry in terms of understanding how to play. We wanted to also create a game experience that didn’t require an expert in the subject matter to be on-hand for the content to be understood.

4. Plan for Multiple Product Types & Launches
Product people are always making road maps and roll-out plans to define product strategy. Once health or science games are added into the mix, layers of complexity appear. Is the game intended for a laboratory environment? Or a major commercial release? Confusing these purposes can have a devastating impact on the quality of the game and its potential to impact lives. Your game may take a different form depending on these requirements and may have different requirements as far as regulatory, privacy, and “results” go. Best to plan for multiple product releases for the same health or science game from the outset.

5. Fun is Functional
When a game meets all clinical criteria, yet isn’t fun, we say throw it away and start over!. No game should feel burdensome. In our collaboration with Killer Snails for a board game about toxic sea creatures, the challenge involved making teaching about poison fun. We addressed this through an approachable visual style, introducing flow via a fun core mechanic and adding a humorous backstory (“assassins of the sea”). Thanks to the National Science Foundation, Playmatics continues this collaboration to take the experience to mobile.


Killer Snails digital game | Killer Snails LLC / Playmatics

Increasingly, games play an important role in health and science. The healthcare industry alone is a $2.8 trillion business. Using this collaborative framework enables Playmatics to work closely with researchers, scientists, and healthcare practitioners to bring our collective visions for a better world to life.

Posted in Industry Circle | 1 Comment

Games For Learning Summit Recap (part 3): The Way Forward

The Games for Learning Summit was hosted on June 23-24, 2016 at the New School’s Parsons School of Design, as part of the 13th annual Games for Change Festival. The Summit was sponsored by the Entertainment Software Association, with additional support from Microsoft. This three-part blog post summarizes the outcomes of the event through an overview of recent progress made by the learning games community (part 1), key takeaways from the Summit (part 2), and areas of opportunity for developers, educators and other stakeholders (part 3).





We’ve covered key takeaways from the 2016 Games for Learning Summit and the recent progress of the learning games community, so now it’s time to talk about where more work is needed. We identified three broad areas of challenge and opportunity that were frequently discussed and debated at Summit sessions, and require the collective expertise and effort of the community to help address.

  1. Numerous challenges remain for large-scale adoption of learning games in the K-12 space. One major concern was keeping up with rapidly changing technology available on the market as well as what is available in schools. David Langendoen, president of Mission US maker Electric Fun Stuff, succinctly captured this sentiment when he self-mockingly described his company’s thinking when they first started out, “We’ll build [the game] in Flash so it’s future proof!”. There are also structural limitations inherent in the school day that prevent immersive and substantive game experiences, such as length of classes, available technology, and the pressure to adhere to standards.
  1. Despite clear signs of progress for and general enthusiasm about learning games, a feeling of insecurity about the credibility of games for education permeated the Summit. This insecurity manifested itself in a few ways. First, nearly all the presentations began by describing how games align with learning theory, educational pedagogy, or human development. It is clearly useful to acknowledge these critical arguments for educational games, particularly for newcomers. However, given the high level of comprehension among the audience and the finite time designated for each presenter, the review of why games began to feel redundant and unnecessary. The second way this manifested was in the expert brainstorm held at the conclusion of the Summit. At the start of the brainstorm, experts agreed immediately that we know students can learn from games. However, when asked about the challenges ahead they also agreed that games have a credibility problem. This contradiction is interesting and will require additional work to identify who needs to know what the community has already learned, and how to educate them.
  1. More research is needed. Speakers across the conference championed the importance of formative research of many types, including user testing, efficacy testing, engagement testing, market research, and prototyping. There is a near ubiquitous agreement that including user feedback early and often is critical. Panelists also agreed that there was plenty of support for using games to provide teachers with formative feedback about their students to aid instruction and support.

However, there were still very few examples of games with demonstrated impact on learning. Impact is difficult to measure and requires a theory of change, an understanding of how students master content, and collaboration with researchers. This collaboration will be critical both for evaluation research that is embedded and aligned with game objectives, but also to make sure that research can better keep up with the advances of games and gaming technology.*

We’d love to hear if there are additional accomplishments to celebrate as we develop an agenda to build towards next year’s Summit. Please share any other milestones, moments, or accomplishment that we left out by emailing

*For more on this topic, check out the Game Impact project, which seeks to develop a typology of impact to improve stakeholder collaboration and align design with evidence and research across disciplines. This initiative brings together leaders from different domains, including academia, civics, learning, health, and game design.

View the full schedule of the 2016 Games for Learning Summit at:

Videos of sessions, workshops and keynotes are available on the G4C YouTube channel:

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