G4C Industry Circle: BrainPOP’s GameUp provides teachers with quality games


We are pleased to present the following article from BrainPOP as the third installment in our Industry Circle series. We hope you enjoy the following piece from Allisyn Levy, VP of GameUp at BrainPOP and that we will see you at G4C’s Google Hangout with BrainPOP on October 2 at 2 p.m. ET. During this live Q&A, BrainPOP and the Learning Games Lab at New Mexico State University will have a chat on GameUp’s impact on their research. RSVP here.

G4C Industry Circle: BrainPOP

GameUp: Providing teachers with quality online learning games

By Allisyn Levy, VP of GameUp at BrainPOP

From our inception more than 15 years ago, BrainPOP has always been about helping teachers convey complex topics — and helping kids make sense of them. We were founded by Avraham Kadar, MD, a physician specializing in pediatric asthma, allergies, and other immunological issues. Dr. Kadar recognized that many of the kids he saw were frightened by what was happening to their bodies. He believed that they would fare much better if they understood much better. BrainPOP grew directly out of that belief, and since then, we’ve never stopped coming up with new ways to support students and their teachers.

One of the “new ways” that we’re most proud of is GameUp, a curated collection of online learning games from leading educational game publishers. As educators ourselves, we loved the idea of using digital games in class. We saw a ton of great games out there, we knew how engaging they could be, and we knew that engaging kids meant motivating them. But as we spoke to teachers about games for learning, we found that many of them — although enthusiastic and not entirely new to the concept — weren’t always sure how to effectively bring games into their classroom.

GameUp was born out of our desire to help teachers expand their use of online games, showcase some of the games we saw, and give kids a new way to learn. We sought to build a portal to quality games that teachers could trust — pre-vetted by us and bundled with implementation strategies, lesson ideas, assessment tools, and an array of other resources. To best accomplish that, we partnered with a range of leading educational game publishers including non-profit organizations, independent game developers, museums, and universities.

Four years after its launch, GameUp is home to more than 120 learning games on 400+ topics, from dozens of game publishers. We’ve hosted more than 8 million hours of gameplay — 4 million in the last year alone — and we look forward to evolving to meet the needs of our users. BrainPOP remains committed to supporting teachers as they explore new pedagogies, and to making the classroom a playful, meaningful environment in which all students can learn.

For more about the unique relationship between GameUp and the game providers we partner with, join us on October 2 for a special G4C Industry Circle Google Hangout. We’ll welcome the team from Learning Games Lab at New Mexico State University for a chat about the impact GameUp has had on their reach and research. Send us Q&A questions in advance by commenting on the Google Hangout page, posting questions during the Google Hangout, or tweeting them with #G4CIndustry!


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NYC Teachers Kick Off the Games for Change Student Challenge

1509_G4C DOE NYC teacher training

As the NYC Department of Education and Games for Change get ready to launch the first-ever Games for Change Student Challenge, teachers from all five boroughs are learning how to teach digital game design in their schools during the 2015-16 school year.

In August, 20 teachers gathered at the Museum of the Moving Image in Astoria, Queens, for the first in a series of professional development sessions led by Institute of Play, Globaloria, and Unity Technologies. As part of the training, teachers learned about the game design process and how games can connect people and bridge social barriers.

Through the G4C Student Challenge, hundreds of middle and high school students from public schools across NYC will create original digital games about social issues in their communities, applying their coding skills to real-world challenges including literacy, sustainability, and animal welfare.

The game design process helps students develop critical life skills like systems thinking, problem solving, and design thinking. Game design can also be a powerful teaching tool — helping educators engage students in a hands-on, collaborative, and interest-driven learning experience.

While any middle or high school student enrolled in a NYC public school can participate in the Challenge, teachers selected for the training program receive professional development and in-class support to implement a game design curriculum in their schools using the Globaloria blended learning platform. Professional game designers will visit classes to mentor students throughout the program.

Teachers playtested each other’s game prototypes, learning how to evaluate games and give constructive feedback, which will come in handy when they begin teaching their students game design.Teachers received an orientation to the design process from Institute of Play, and put their new skills to use creating paper prototypes of games about the Challenge Themes.

Want to participate in the Challenge but not sure if your school will be offering a game design course? First, talk to your principal about ways you can encourage students to create games to submit. Perhaps your school already offers a technology or computer science course in which students could design games. Game design resources, digital game-making tools, and beginner’s guides for students, parents and teachers are also available for free on the Challenge website.

The Challenge launches this September, and the submission deadline is January 30, 2016. A panel of judges including game designers, industry leaders and social innovators will evaluate submissions in February 2016 and select up to six winning games. Prizes will be presented at an awards gala at Museum of the Moving Image in March 2016.

The Challenge is hosted in collaboration with the NYC Department of Education through two innovation initiatives, iZone and Digital Ready, and leaders in the social impact games sector Globaloria, Institute of Play and the Museum of the Moving Image. A consortium of cross-sector partners is providing additional resources, prizes and expertise, including leading game platform Unity and digital learning advocate Susan Crown Exchange (SCE) Foundation. Challenge Theme partners include The New York Times, XPRIZE Foundation, A Kinder World Foundation, NYC Mayor’s Office of Technology and Innovation and the ACLU.

For more information about the Challenge, visit www.g4cstudentchallenge.org.

Teachers playtested each other’s game prototypes, learning how to evaluate games and give constructive feedback, which will come in handy when they begin teaching their students game design.

Teachers playtested each other’s game prototypes, learning how to evaluate games and give constructive feedback, which will come in handy when they begin teaching their students game design.

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Come visit us at our G4C Arcade and talk with PopTech (Sept. 10)

[ This post originally appeared on PopTech’s website ]


In partnership with PopTech and Steelcase, we’re presenting a talk from our president Asi Burak and an arcade of thought-provoking games on September 10.

This free event is part of the PopTech Roadtrip series, which has ventured around the U.S. and abroad, bringing together the PopTech community to explore new ideas and engage in interesting discussions. Thanks to Steelcase, their next stop is in New York City!

Join us on Thursday, September 10 for a compelling talk around gaming for good and an intimate evening of discovery and conversation.

Did we mention that it’s free? Sign up, tell your friends, and get ready for what will be a fun and informative evening. Drinks and snacks will be served. See you then!

Date: Thursday, September 10
Time: 7:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m.
Location: Steelcase WorkLife Center, 4 Columbus Circle, New York, NY
Registration: Sign up here
The gist: Hear how games can be used for good from Asi Burak, award-winning game creator and social innovator, and president of Games for Change. He’ll dive into the latest trends, challenges, and successful case studies of the gaming for good movement from around the world.

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Games for Change looking for
2 Production Interns

1508_Games for Change internship posting

Games for Change is seeking two production interns to support a range of game development projects. Candidates for this unpaid internship should meet the below qualifications and requirements.

  • Very reliable, self-motivated, and proactive
  • Passion for and interest in social impact games and video game development (production, design, and development)
  • Highly organized and detailed-oriented
  • Strong communication skills and ability to work with remote teams
  • Desire to share Games for Change’s mission

Position details:

  • Support G4C staff (VP of Production and Program Manager) in daily activities across range of game development projects
  • Conduct research on games, game-related programs, tech opportunities and interventions, and game developers
  • Communicate and manage outreach to partners seeking support with impact game projects and liaise with game developers, funders, researchers, and evaluators
  • Conduct research relating to game projects
  • Compose overview documents and concept decks


  • Seeking full-time applicants (10-30 hours/week; minimum of six weeks)
  • Position based in Boston or New York (with the possibility of remote work for the right candidate)
  • Applicants must be enrolled in a college or university-level program

To apply, please send an email with the subject line “Production Intern” to Tania Hack, Program Manager ([email protected]). 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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Industry Circle: Filament Games measures results in learning games


In our second installment of the G4C Industry Circle series, Filament Games shares a case study evaluating the impact of their engineering game Backyard Engineers. Hear even more about how Filament makes learning games and measures their results at our upcoming Google Hangout on September 17 at 2 p.m. EST. Send questions for our Q&A session via Twitter or Facebook with #G4CIndustry. RSVP here.


A Case For Learning Games

Together with physical classroom activities, learning games afford students a more comprehensive view of classroom materials and a more dynamic classroom experience. Learning games can teach students about dynamic content in ways textbooks cannot. With Filament Games, students can explore organ systems, travel through the body as a cell, and watch plants grow and bloom in a matter of minutes. Learning games provide a safe environment for students to explore these environments and experiment with these systems.

Good learning games aren’t designed just for fun; they are designed to teach students predetermined learning outcomes. This case study on the game Backyard Engineers shows how learning games, used in conjunction with other classroom activities, can increase student learning.


Backyard Engineers Case Study

Implementing game-based learning in the classroom creates opportunities for students to further their knowledge by exploring content in a meaningful and engaging way. Not only do learning games inspire and engage students — they help build critical thinking, creative problem-solving, and teamwork skills.

Learning games can be used in the classroom to teach new content, reinforce previously taught content, and measure student learning. Learning games are at their most beneficial when integrated with additional instructional activities [1]. A well-designed learning game can be seamlessly integrated into classroom experiences to create a richer, more dynamic learning ecosystem. Michele Huppert, seventh-grade STREAM (science, technology, reading, engineering, arts, and math) teacher at Spring Valley Middle School in Wisconsin, incorporated Backyard Engineers into her classroom activities and did just that.

Backyard Engineers is an engineering learning game aligned to middle-school science standards. In order to successfully complete the game, students must customize different catapult elements in order to manipulate movement, accuracy, and range.

In order to bring the advantages of game-based learning into the classroom, Backyard Engineers was incorporated into an interdisciplinary unit tied to Next Generation Science Standards. Not only did the students enjoy participating in the game, results showed an increase in test scores between a pre- and post-test.


Key Results

  • An average 20.09% increase in general student scores between pre- and post-test
  • An average 9.56% increase in scores for students with identified special needs between pre- and post test
  • An average 17.42% increase in scores across all students between pre- and post-test

Key Components of Study Design

  • Pre- and post-test data: Gained through testing using Google Forms
  • Designated in-class game play time
  • Integration of digital and physical activities to reinforce classroom content
  • Post-experience reflective writing activities

Google Forms were utilized to create pre- and post-tests for the 63 seventh-grade students (16 of them were students with identified special needs) in this case study. All of the students received access to Backyard Engineers and played the game on designated lab days. Students also played Backyard Engineers on their own outside of class.

The game reinforced concepts that the students were learning during classroom lessons and activities. Concepts included catapult criteria and constraints, structural design, forces, velocity and acceleration, and work and energy.

In addition to playing Backyard Engineers, the students participated in a culminating event in which they were asked to design, build, and test catapults, towers, and heraldic banners. The students were then able to physically play a game similar to that of Backyard Engineers. When working in teams, students developed social and collaborative skills by selecting leaders to fill team positions.

Backyard Engineers features dashboard capabilities that allow teachers to check in on progress and assess which learning objectives students have encountered. This function is available in real-time, allowing just-in-time intervention when students need it most! Integrated free curriculum is also available to enhance student learning and provide additional classroom activities.

Go to www.filamentlearning.com to learn more about implementing game-based learning and schedule a demo!

1. Wouters, P., van Nimwegen, C., van Oostendorp, H., & van der Spek, E. D. (2013, February 4). A Meta-Analysis of the Cognitive and Motivational Effects of Serious Games. Journal of Educational Psychology, 105(2), 249-265.

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Get your tickets for Jane McGonigal’s NYC talks (September 15, 16)

Banner_Jane McGonigal_headshot_634px_USE THIS

In partnership with The New York Public Library and NYU Game Center, we’re pleased to invite you to two special evenings of inspiring thought and a book signing with award-winning game maker and best-selling author Jane McGonigal.

Jane will speak about a decade’s worth of scientific research into the ways all games change how we respond to stress, challenge, and pain. She’ll explain how we can cultivate new powers of recovery and resilience in everyday life simply by adopting a more “gameful” mindset, and bring the same psychological strengths we naturally display when we play games to real-world goals.

After her talk, she will sign copies of her second book Superbetter. This new book will be available for purchase at both events, and at Jane’s book tour stops across the country. If you can’t make it to these book signings, you can preorder a copy here.

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Industry Circle: Kognito asks, “What is the state of our industry?”


We are pleased to introduce the first article in our series around our new initiative, the Industry Circle, which aims to acknowledge the achievements and challenges in the growing social impact games industry. We hope you enjoy the following article from Kognito’s CEO and co-founder Ron Goldman, and that we’ll see you at G4C’s Google Hangout Q&A with the Kognito executive team on August 24! Register here.


What is the State of
our “Industry”?

By Ron Goldman, co-founder & CEO, Kognito

During the 2015 Games for Change Festival in NYC, together with Asi Burak, president of Games for Change (G4C), I organized a panel discussion entitled State of the Industry: A Town Hall, as part of the inaugural Industry Circle. The panel included executives from some of the leading companies involved in the G4C community such as Amplify, BrainPOP, Global Gaming Initiative, GlassLab, Filament Games, Schell Games, and Kognito. The goal was to have a candid discussion about where we stand in the process of transforming social impact games from a niche movement into a self-sustaining, growing industry.

We want to continue to discuss with the G4C community where we stand, where we should go, what critical challenges we face, and what we should be cautious about on this journey. We welcome your perspective, insights, criticism, and questions — even challenges about whether a mission-driven community like G4C should even try to become a self-sustaining industry.

To start this conversation, we have described what we refer to as “The 7 Keys to G4C Success,” which were a constant theme during the panel discussion at the G4C Festival. The companies that participated on the G4C panel will author future articles, each providing their unique perspectives on the issues.

The 7 Keys to G4C Success:

  1. Business Model: A critical component of building a sustainable, scalable business is the ability to develop your own content/IP and then sell or license it directly or through third parties to numerous clients at a price above your costs. A SaaS (Software-as-a-Service) subscription-based content delivery model best meets the need for small companies to attain recurring revenues and higher profit margins that they need to grow. Today, an increasing number of companies are investing in building a portfolio of owned games instead of creating client-owned content/IP in work-for-hire projects, but we are still a long way from this being the dominant business model. Current estimation is that the majority of companies generate more than 75% of their revenue from work-for-hire projects.
  2. The Type of Change Games Aim to Achieve: The “change” in G4C can be defined in many ways; however, we can probably all agree that the basis of any G4C should have at its core a social mission. Initially at G4C, the majority of games were educational software concerning school curricula around math and science learning skills. While games clearly present a way to revolutionize how math and science are taught in school, many don’t view teaching math as a social topic but as an educational topic. Over the past few years, we have seen an increasing number of games dedicated to core social change issues such as supporting vulnerable populations, mental health, civics, human trafficking, and discrimination. This shift is a clear indicator of an almost holistic understanding of where developers and clients now envision the potential of games to change perception, attitudes, and behaviors around social and health topics. This is a key factor in the value proposition that we are all offering the market.
  3. Diversification of Funding Sources: Early-stage industries tend to rely on foundations and government grants as sources of funding. For example, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation supported Games for Health through its initial years. Multiple government research grants secured by companies in our field are also great examples of short-term wins that we can all reference. However, relying on these sources for too long is perilous, as awards are usually designed as work-for-hire and don’t offer the recurring revenue upside to act as long-term, on-going financial support for an emerging industry. Long-term G4C members are all painfully aware of outstanding teams of game designers that closed up shop due to foundations or government grantors shifting their priorities. While some G4C companies have been increasingly successful in securing more of their revenue from long-term sources (e.g., content licensing), foundations and government grants still account for the majority of funding secured by our community members.
  4. Venture Capital/Investors: While foundations and government research grantors are comfortable taking risk on unproven approaches, investors cannot and do not. Investors do not invest in niche categories with marginally profitable products based on limited clinical science. Investors must consider the scalability and clinical validity of products and solutions. Now, as angel investors and institutional venture capitalists begin to invest in G4C companies, they are sending a clear message that we are a viable industry. We should celebrate every investment made in our space. We must examine these events more closely and incorporate and leverage similar business strategies in our own organizations to attract even more investors to our space. The success that members are starting to experience is not a false positive. Things are moving. Investors are interested. We are addressing the need. Investors know this.
  5. Prove the Change: Changing perceptions, attitudes, and behaviors is a difficult task, and while game-based experiences are superior in achieving such changes when compared to traditional PSAs, flyers, and lectures, this won’t count as long as we can’t prove it. Conducting empirical research to prove the efficacy of games for change has been a discussion for several years and groups like the Health Games Research at USC and the Impact with Games: A Fragmented Field report from G4C are great — but rare — examples. Our conversation about success is still defined by how many people accessed the game or how many articles were written on it in the media.
  6. Companies Solely Committed to Selling Games for Change: When someone asks you what you do, what do you tell them? It’s an important response. As the spotlight on our industry increases, the number of companies that are truly dedicating their efforts to G4C will become a critical element to our credibility and viability. Our community is built of nonprofits, foundations, and companies that vary in size and in the role that G4C really plays in their daily activities. Some companies can be viewed as educational software companies only. Some produce a portion of their work that can be defined as G4C. Whether more and more companies in our community will be able to allow G4C to play a dominant role in their daily activities and revenue to the point where 100% of their efforts could be defined as games for change, is an important indication of our ability to back up our claim of becoming a self-sustaining industry.
  7. Successful and Diverse Use Cases: As with any emerging industry, we need a few great examples that showcase the ability of game-based experiences to drive meaningful change. Examples like Half the Sky and the media coverage it received are critical and essential. We are seeing more acceptance by the media to cover such projects and the number of users is continuously increasing. Still, considering point #5 above, these success stories should not just be about number of users, but also about being able to prove the change they generate so that strong ROI (return on investment) cases can be created.

This is a conversation we must have now before it is too late. Yes, it will likely create some strong feelings among those who feel that G4C should never think about money or commercialization, but what we can all agree on is that we don’t want in 10 years for people to say, “Oh, remember those games for change people? I wonder what happened with them; it looked so promising, but then it just faded away.”

What we do is real. What we do works. What we do is better than many traditional approaches to changing attitudes and behaviors that companies and governments spend billions of dollars a year on. Let’s have a candid discussion. Let’s claim our place.

The author of this post is Ron Goldman, co-founder and CEO at Kognito, with contribution from Stephen Shinnick, CFO at Kognito.

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G4C Student Challenge with NYC’s Dept. of Education

g4c_sc_postcard_final_newsletter format-02_girl at computer_2

We are excited to launch our NYC Games for Change Student Challenge, a new game design program for middle and high school students throughout the 2015-16 school year that is supported by an amazing group of partner organizations.

With the help of their teachers and veteran game designers, hundreds of students from public schools across NYC will create original digital games about social issues in their communities, under themes from our sponsors who provide domain expertise, workshop opportunities, and prizes:

  • Civic journalism and under-reported stories (The New York Times)
  • Smart cities (NYC Mayor’s Office of Technology & Innovation)
  • Adult literacy (XPRIZE Foundation)
  • Animal welfare (A Kinder World Foundation)
  • … and more to come this summer

All teachers and students are invited to participate in the challenge. Twenty teachers from schools in all five NYC boroughs have been selected to receive robust training to run game-making courses in their schools. After students submit their games between September 2015 and January 2016, a jury of experts will select the best games. An awards ceremony and a public arcade featuring the top games will be hosted in March by the Museum of the Moving Image.

The challenge is being implemented by Games for Change, Globaloria, Institute of Play, and the Museum of the Moving Image in collaboration with the NYC Department of Education through two innovation initiatives, iZone and Digital Ready. A consortium of cross-sector partners is providing additional resources, prizes, and expertise, including leading game platform Unity and Susan Crown Exchange (SCE) Foundation.

Want to help the next generation of game makers?
We are seeking in-kind prizes that reward students’ passion for technology, creativity, and game design, such as software and hardware, internships, scholarships to summer programs, and mentorship opportunities. Please email [email protected] if you or your organization are interested in sponsoring a prize.

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Save the dates: Jane McGonigal in NYC, Superbetter book signing

1507_Superbetter book cover

In September, we’re co-hosting two free public events with award-winning game maker and best-selling author Jane McGonigal.

Jane will speak about a decade’s worth of scientific research into the ways all games change how we respond to stress, challenge, and pain. She’ll explain how we can cultivate new powers of recovery and resilience in everyday life simply by adopting a more “gameful” mindset, and bring the same psychological strengths we naturally display when we play games to real-world goals.

Following her talk, she will sign copies of her second book Superbetter. This new book will be available for purchase at these events, or if you can’t make it, you can preorder a copy here.

Tickets will be released by August 18 on our Eventbrite for:

  • The New York Public Library’s Stephen A. Schwarzman Building, September 15, 6 p.m.
  • NYU Game Center, September 16, 7 p.m.
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Come play this summer at our
Cities of Learning arcades


For the second year, we’re partnering with Cities of Learning to provide a digital G4C Arcade for students across the country and a live physical experience at end of summer showcases.

Here’s what’s new this year:

  • Four physical arcades in major cities:
  • Dallas (August 7)
  • Pittsburgh (August 8)
  • Chicago (September 19)
  • Washington DC (October, TBA)
  • Five new games added to our digital arcade, each paired with real-world activities so players can make a positive impact in their community

Supported by the MacArthur Foundation and powered by the Digital Youth Network and Connected Learning Alliance, each City of Learning brings together all of a city’s resources to equip young people with the skills they need to succeed in the 21st century. Games for Change is one of many organizations — among NASA, Best Buy, Mozilla, and more — providing accessible, free-to-low-cost activities to youth through the summer and beyond. Our arcades are able to travel across the country thanks to a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts.

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