Summer Update: Cities of Learning, Half the Sky Movement, and More


Next Stop, Chicago!

Join us for a Summer of Learning

As part of the nationwide Cities of Learning initiative and following on the first G4C Public Arcade at the Tribeca Family Festival Street Fair, we’ve brought together an online arcade of award-winning games to encourage youth to play on- and offline this summer.

Once players finish the arcade games, they can then unplug and take the experience off-screen by completing real-world activities and earn digital badges as proof of their achievements. For example, after tackling poverty in SPENT, they can go the extra mile and do something to help the homeless in their own community. Or after deciding innocence or guilt in We the Jury’s mock trials, they can research the real deal by interviewing the real-life jury pool — family or friends.

Cities of Learning evolved from the Chicago Summer of Learning program, launched by Mayor Rahm Emanuel last year to encourage youth to stay on track academically and gain job skills over the summer. Building on last year’s success — 100,000 youth participated in activities hosted by more than 100 organizations — the MacArthur Foundation, Mozilla Open Badges, and Digital Youth Network are expanding Cities of Learning from Chicago to Columbus, Dallas, Los Angeles, and Washington, D.C.

The G4C digital arcade will be available in all of these cities, and at the end of the summer, participants’ games and projects from around the country will be displayed at the Chicago Summer Showcase on August 14, where we’ll also have the arcade games available to play. Check out select games below!



Glasslab, EA

Save your city from pollution — on screen and off! Make a dent in pollution in your own world with simple steps to trim your garbage footprint. How low can you go?




G4C Award Winner: Game of the Year 2013
FableVision Studios, Learning Games Network

Conquer tough choices as the captain of a far-off planet and then tackle tough choices right here on planet Earth.



G4C Award Winner: Most Significant Impact 2012
McKinney, Urban Ministries of Durham

Play SPENT, a game that faces down poverty, and take real-world action to help someone in need.



Mission US: A Cheyenne Odyssey

G4C Award Winner: Most Significant Impact 2014
THIRTEEN/WNET, Electric Funstuff

Make history and time travel back to 1866! Then make your own history on Google Map Maker.



We the Jury

iCivics, Filament Games

Decide guilt or innocence as a juror. Then research the real deal, asking others for their jury duty stories.




GlassLab Games

Play SimCityEDU: Pollution Challenge! and Mars Generation One: Argubot Academy to build problem-solving and reasoning skills while earning a badge for each game!




Filament Games

From running your own crazy plant shop to controlling the cells that keep your body healthy, these seven games are as entertaining as they are educational. Earn a badge for each one you play.




Make a game in Gamestar Mechanic!

E-Line Media

Think of a topic, learn about game making, and make your own game for change. One fabulous game will be selected to be showcased at the Games for Change Arcade at Chicago Summer Showcase. It could be yours!


Half the Sky Games on the Road… to Android

Work to bring our Half the Sky Movement (HTSM) Facebook and mobile games to audiences in India and Kenya is now well underway as part of the HTSM Media and Technology Engagement Initiative, supported by USAID and led by Show of Force. We’ve also begun to adapt some of the Facebook game content to Android as standalone apps.

The initiative includes NGO partners working in India and Kenya, HTSM documentary producers, the Annenberg Center for Global Communication Studies (monitoring and evaluation), and Ogilvy (marketing and PR). Together, we are adapting all media from the project — the TV series, the Facebook game, the three mobile games, short educational videos, social media strategy, and more — to new local audiences in India and Kenya.


Meet the NGOs

G4C and Show of Force just wrapped up hands-on training with NGO partners, Save the Children in India (pictured above), and Shining Hope for Communities (SHOFCO) and Young Women’s Leadership Institute (YWLI) in Kenya, to integrate the games into their existing community programs.

The three feature phone games, playable on Nokia C2-01, Nokia 2730, and compatible phones, cover prenatal care (9 Minutes), deworming awareness (Worm Attack!), and the value of girls in their family (Family Choices). The NGOs will lead community discussion groups, where participants play the games and then role-play activities to explore their themes and messages. These games will also point toward other media and services via SMS messaging and links.

Additionally, YWLI will play and explore narratives in the HTSM Facebook game as a centerpiece on their moderated online forum. They will prompt participants to consider aspects of the game and their own lives through open-ended discussions.

From Facebook to Android

Our initial plan was to translate Half the Sky Movement: The Game on Facebook for Indian and Kenyan players. However, earlier visits with our NGO partners revealed that few of their community members would have access to Facebook, and those who do have access do not use Facebook in local languages. Almost everyone reads it in English.

So we decided to create instead a series of offline apps for those who would not have regular Internet access. We asked our friends at Frima Studio, the makers of the Facebook game, to adapt the same stories and characters into an offline choose-your-own-adventure version for Android phones, which are prevalent in cities in India and Kenya. The Android games will be available this fall on the Google Play store.


Our Kenyan NGO partners YWLI and SHOFCO play through the Facebook game in our training session last month.

A Grassroots Approach to Publishing

In India, our local game partner ZMQ will lead on the distribution of the games through existing health care and school programs that are supported by the Indian government and already have the needed technology.

Frontline health care workers, who travel to communities with limited or no access to institutionalized health care, will carry the games on their mobile phones, which are provided to them by the Indian government. Patients can play the games while they wait to see the doctor or along with the health care workers. The health care providers can also transfer the games from their phones to patients’ phones over Bluetooth.

In schools, teachers will receive training on playing the mobile games with students in the classroom. Teachers will also host classroom contests with the mobile games, as students compete for the highest score in 9 Minutes or Worm Attack!.

In Kenya, Leti Arts, our local game partner, plans to spread the word about the games through another medium entirely — comics. They learned in past projects that audiences are reluctant to download or try digital games that they’re not familiar with from app stores, even if they’re free, because they don’t know what they’re getting. However, if they’re familiar with the content, they’ll go to great lengths to get it. For example, an elderly woman will learn to use SMS to download music to her phone because she loves the song, and knows what to expect.

Leti Arts plans to introduce the games’ narrative and characters through comics, a more traditional medium that’s much more familiar and accessible. Mobile ambassadors from their Mobiv-8 Youth Network will distribute the printed comics, which will point readers who want to learn more to the Android games.

In this next phase of the HTSM transmedia project, for the first time, we’re promoting and distributing the games at local and national levels, none of which would be possible without our NGO and publishing partners.

Games Examine War Away from the Battlefield

436a463b-417b-4bb9-9188-56004ea559fe (Image by Tara Jacoby, via Kotaku)

Countless games have thrown players into heated warzones, whether as a soldier holding a gun ready to fire or an almighty commander who oversees the entire battlefield, moving units around.

What’s less examined in games is what’s happening off the battlefield and the consequences of violence. Recently, however, we see more developers who are examining war’s impact on civilians. We’ve made a list of games that we’re looking forward to and a list of thought-provoking titles to play right now.

To Play Right Now:  To Watch For:  


Community Updates


News and previews from Games for Change Festival alum:

The developers of biofeedback-enhanced horror game Nevermind have partnered with Intel. The winners of our 2014 Pitch Event, Nevermind‘s team will integrate Intel’s motion- and emotion-sensing RealSense 3D camera, allowing players to experience the game without additional hardware.

Never Alone
First announced at the 2013 Festival, Never Alone has released a new video about its development process and seen glowing reactions from the press as it approaches its fall release this year.

Off Grid
Rich Metson, one of the developers of data privacy game Off Grid, recaps his Pitch Event experience and interviews with Kill Screen and The Verge.

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