The Margaret Mead Film Festival Gets Leveled Up by Games for Change

The American Museum of Natural History is home to the annual Margaret Mead Film Festival
Image © AMNH/Roderick Mickens
Creating a film festival in the name of Margaret Mead, one of America’s leading cultural anthropologists, is no easy task.

With every successful year, the American Museum of Natural History curates a powerful and exciting collection of contemporary media experiences for attendees of its annual Margaret Mead Film Festival. Now in it’s 36th year, this event is the preeminent showcase for contemporary cultural storytelling, and is the longest-running premiere showcase for international documentaries in the United States, encompassing a broad spectrum of work.

This year’s event boasts 29 provocative films, two (yes, two!) dance parties, and for the first time: an arcade of insightful games that complement the theme of this year’s festival, “Whose Story Is It?”. The games will be housed in the Mead Arcade (located in the museum’s Grand Gallery) and will examine our understanding of culture, anthropology, media, and ethnography.

This one-of-a-kind arcade experience is an example of the many new collaborations we’re participating in to further promote the depth and cultural relevance of games for change. The titles on display will provide new ways to discover how media can be used to experience other cultures and deliver social impact. The Museum is interested in probing how, and if, games can illuminate and add to Mead’s great legacy of how media newly engages people in understanding disparate cultures while asking the eternal question: What makes us human?

We would like to thank the ESA Foundation for their grant supporting our efforts to bring games into museums.

Promotional imagery for the 2012 Margaret Mead Film Festival
Attendees of the 2012 Margaret Mead Film Festival will have the opportunity to play the following while interacting with our Game Ambassadors:

The Cat and the Coup *
Peter Brinson, Kurosh ValaNejad, University of Southern California
Told through a visually complex and metaphoric design aesthetic, The Cat and the Coup explores the downfall of Dr. Mohammed Mossadegh, the first democratically elected Prime Minister of Iran. Players control Mossadegh’s cat and as it guides his soul through the events that lead to the systemic coup to take him down.

Guess My Race *
Michael D. Baran, Harvard University
This simple and powerful guessing game challenges players to determine a person’s race through pre-assumptions based on physical appearance and a series of purposely leading choices. After answering, players can read direct responses from people who appear in the game, as they explain how they culturally identify.

Hunt for the Noor Stone
Endeavor Films, Playwala, ITVS
Part of the transmedia properties surrounding the comic book “The 99”, Hunt for the Noor Stone is another aspect of the project that uses video games to positively highlight Islamic culture. In Noor Stone, players travel through time to stop a villain from capturing the game’s namesake artifact. Players must learn more about Islamic history and language to solve puzzle to stop his advance.

Sweatshop takes a dark, tongue-in-cheek look at the horrors of overseas, sweatshop labor. As players abuse their workers to gain higher scores, the cartoonish gameplay mirrors the actual problems that exist in these labor institutions.

WAY **
Coco & Co.
WAY bridges the gap between cultures through non-verbal communication, team work, and random pairing of players around the world. By putting players in an environment of puzzles that they cannot solve alone, WAY encourages collaborative teamwork with strangers until their hard work culminates in a dramatic finale, finally allowing players to “speak” for the first time.

* Games for Change Award Nominee
** Games for Change Award Winner


The 2013 Margaret Mead Film Festival takes place in New York City at the American Museum of Natural History on November 29 – December 2, 2012.

You can learn more about this year’s event and find out how to attend on the American Museum of Natural History website.

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