Get the Party Started: A #G4CStudent Challenge Game Jam!

The Games for Change Student Challenge was back with a game jam on February 21st, hosted at the New-York Historical Society! This Jam put one theme at the very center of the event: political change. Entitled “Get the Party Started”, Games for Change and theme partner iCivics asked students to form a new political party, and design a game which reflected how they would make a splash in the 2020 race for the White House. As Americans are increasingly unhappy with both the Democratic and Republican parties, there is support for the establishment of a new, third party. This is especially true with voters who are younger. Students were challenged to craft socially aware games that tap into this idea.
 
There was guidance from professional game designers to teach students the basics of video game development. Students were also treated to a special tour of the museum that provided them with context and inspiration to fuel their ideas, including an exhibit on Lyndon B. Johnson’s Voting Rights Act of 1965. Students on the tour asked insightful questions, and those insights would of course go into their game development.
 
Students’ games showed their interest both for change, and game development. There were some stand outs; with a few young developers even presenting their creations. One bright mind in particular offered sharp commentary on the powers currently in place. As a satire (labeled as such by one of the iCivics attendees), the game illustrated the difficulties of change in old, established powers through certain game mechanics. In this game, the third party is trying to gain momentum and favor, but is inevitably behind the dominant Democratic and Republican parties. The game was a deliberate catch-22: To earn more money, the third party would need more votes.But getting those votes requires money!
 
Another student game, a button-mashing multiplayer, had players assume the identities of the Democratic, Republican, a brand new third party, and battle it out to see who could reach the most votes first. The winner got to become President.This game was a great way to showcase just how hot-blooded politics can be.
 
Overall, the jam was a big hit, with students creating dozens of socially conscious games that can be entered into this Spring’s competition! Everything they accomplished on just one Saturday makes one think about what could happen should passionate and creative students be continuously encouraged to make change.
 
A big thank you to iCivics, the New-York Historical Society, our amazing partners, and all of the talented students who attended!

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