The Entertainment Software Association and G4C present the Games for Learning Summit



The Games for Learning Summit, presented by the Entertainment Software Association (ESA) and Games for Change, with further support from Microsoft, is open to all Games for Change Festival attendees. The program will include workshops and talks from a cross-section of thought leaders from academia, government, gaming, edtech, and social innovation.
Check out these Summit highlights and meet its curator below!



Full schedule to be announced soon on the Festival website.
Stay tuned for info on our Civics & Social Issues track!



OPENING REMARKS: Entertainment Software Association
Erik Huey, SVP of Government Affairs for the Entertainment Software Association, presents the Summit’s opening address, discussing how the ESA supports and provides insights into the growing sector of games in the classroom.


KEYNOTE: Magic Leap
Magic Leap’s Chief Game Wizard Graeme Devine shares the startup’s vision for mixed reality in the classroom and making virtual objects appear in real life.


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KEYNOTE: Unity Global Education
Megan Stewart, director of Unity Global Education, gives an overview of how games are affecting change across industries and inspiring youth toward careers in game development.


TALK: Minecraft Education
Minecraft Education director Deirdre Quarnstrom shares what’s new in Mojang and Microsoft’s efforts to bring Minecraft to students and teachers around the world, including its new portfolio feature.


PANEL: Virtual reality in the classroom with Google, Valve, and Blippar

Is VR the ultimate in immersive learning? What’s real and what’s hype? Hear how VR is reimagining the classroom experience, helping teachers deliver content and expand the scope of learning with Des Plaines School District 62 CTO Jennie Magiera, Valve VR evangelist and writer Chet Faliszek, Jonathan Rochelle of Google Education, and Blippar’s head of education Colum Elliott-Kelly.


PANEL: Computer Science for All: Putting students in the driving seat
Learn how students in NYC are learning to code and make games both in and outside of school, and what needs to happen next to make computer science a new literacy. Hear from NYC CTO Minerva Tantoco, CSNYC Director Michael Preston, teacher Matthew Farber, and Debbie Marcus, CS4All director at the NYC Department of Education.



PANEL: Women and girls in gaming
How can education support more women and girls to create a more diverse games industry? What obstacles will we need to overcome to do it? Hear from director of the University of Southern California (USC) Games program Tracy Fullerton, Joan Freese of PBS SciGirls, and Girls Make Games founder Laila Shabir.



TALK: Breaking into the education market

Games for Learning blogger Sande Chen discusses strategies for entering the learning games market. Learn about the challenges facing game creators, educators and administrators, and how games can provide transformative experiences in the classroom.



WORKSHOP: AbleGamers’ includification

In this workshop led by AbleGamers President Mark Bartlet, participants will learn about “includification,” the non-intimidating process of making sure your games can be played by more people. The workshop will look at games meant to support innovative learning, but the lessons and ideas are universal.

PANEL: Games for early-childhood learning
Play is a powerful way to engage young learners eager to explore and create. What have we learned about the needs of early learners and creating effective age-appropriate content that supports their growth? Panel includes leaders from The Fred Rogers Company, PBS Kids, CodeSpark, and Toca Boca, moderated by Katrina Stevens of the U.S. Department of Education.

WORKSHOP: Classcraft: Where the student becomes the hero
Learn firsthand how a role-playing game can foster stronger student collaboration and classroom management from the creators of Classcraft. This game making workshop will introduce participants to the core mechanics that make a game engaging in the classroom.


Meet the Games for Learning Summit curator:
Sara Cornish leads G4C’s learning programs including the G4C Student Challenge, a social impact game design challenge. She also manages strategic partnerships and development.




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New chapter in our report on games + impact: Countering four risky assumptions

Our investigation of the big picture continues with our new chapter: Countering Four Risky Assumptions. The free PDF debuted in April at the Games and Media Summit and is published by ETC Press. In our role as field convener, Games for Change is thrilled to better align research with practice.

G4C Blog_RiskyAssumptions

The idea is to reduce friction between games designers and researchers, especially across disciplines. This new chapter, with some fun infographics, builds on research we launched a year ago with funding from the Packard Foundation. More than 5,000 copies of the first report were downloaded in its first year — and we received some great feedback.

Some of the best insights from the community turned into this new chapter. For example, we argue that real progress depends on recognizing that great designers are researchers too, since they must test their games carefully for launch. Deep collaboration requires more respect for the “inner researcher” of our favorite designers.

Partnership is critical for building cohesion in our field. The “discussion collaborators” below were invaluable in hosting discussions on the report before. Now we invite them again to compliment and critique — especially the four assumptions. (If you would like to be a discussion partner, please contact us!)

Not sure where to start? We’d love to hear your responses to any of these questions:

  • Are they as risky as we think?
  • Do you like our proposed solutions?  How can we learn from failure in our field, especially across disciplines and design practices?
  • Would the infographics help you to teach about game impact in a design school?




For the third chapter, we are developing a “typology of impact” to make better sense of our field.  Rather than organize games by content area, we are proposing to group them by how they achieve and claim impact.
See you at the Games for Change Festival later this month for more!

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Games for Change Festival: Introducing our new Neurogaming & Health track


Announcing sessions in the
Neurogaming & Health track

For the first time ever, the Games for Change Festival will feature a Neurogaming & Health track that highlights collaborations between researchers and developers who are producing games with remarkable, measurable outcomes. Check out this track’s speakers and meet its curator, Asi Burak, below!


Coming soon: more info on our Civics & Social Issues track and the Games for Learning Summit!


Sea Hero Quest

Saving the human mind
Within 24 hours of launch, Deutsche Telekom’s mobile game to fight dementia, Sea Hero Quest, reached over 140,000 downloads. Wolfgang Kampbartold, VP at Deutsche Telekom (DT), will share more on the game’s success and explain why a global telecom leader has decided to invest in crowdgaming.


From Fantasy to Empathy: Changing game dialogue for the real world
Kognito writers Jennifer Hepler, who previously wrote the Dragon Age series at Bioware and many other commercial titles, and Seth Bleecker present how game dialogue can encourage us to be more empathetic.


Psychology and game design at Valve
Valve’s senior experimental psychologist Mike Ambinder takes attendees behind the scenes of the maker of Half-Life, Portal, and more. Take an in-depth look at Valve’s game design process, how they measure the impact of their decisions, and how this applies to games aiming to affect the real world.


Hacking neuroscience with OpenBCI
In this surprising live demo with an audience volunteer (will it be you?), the hackers, programmers, and researchers of OpenBCI present a first-hand look into open-source platforms for biosensing and brain-computer interfaces. 

Neurosky Star Wars Force Trainer
Star Wars Force Trainer
NeuroSky CEO Stanley Yang breaks down the history of NeuroSky biosensors and their integration into commercial toys, from their Star Wars Force Trainer and beyond.

syncself 2
Moving mindfully using wearable technology
Speaking about the development of VR and neurogaming, artist Karen Palmer shares her interactive film fusing parkour and gaming, Syncself 2, and reveals the process behind her current project, Riot, an immersive video installation.


Zombies, Run!

Zombies, Run! and Overwatch
Six to Start CEO and founder Adrian Hon presents his studio’s ongoing work in health apps and their game Zombies, Run!, which boasts 2.5 million players. Get a look at their new game for wearables, codenamed Overwatch.

Videogames and meditation
Robin Arnott, the award-winning creator of SoundSelf, a 2014 G4C Awards nominee, analyzes meditation as game design and argues how meditation systems can be adapted and even improved by modern videogame technology.  

Snow World
VR and Snow World: Working with burn victims
Ari Hollander, co-founder and CTO of DeepStream VR, highlights VR project Snow World‘s potential to reduce pain for severe burn patients. Clinical trials show dramatic reductions in pain, plus patients report feeling less anxious when they have VR to help them through the painful procedure.


The quest for FDA-approved games
The road to FDA approval is long and expensive but promising studies have encouraged acclaimed neuroscientist Dr. Adam Gazzaley to move his game from the lab into the commercial world. Project: Evo has already shown solid results in children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).


Rewiring the Brain: Anxiety treatment
A new health game, Seeing the Good Side, developed by American University‘s Game Lab in collaboration with the National Institutes of Health, seeks to leverage hidden-object puzzles to provide a “gaming regimen” for children with anxiety.



Meet the Neurogaming & Health Curator: Asi Burak
Asi Burak, the chairman of Games for Change, is a veteran of the videogame and technology industries, and an award-winning executive producer and designer. For the past five years, he served as the President of Games for Change (replaced by Susanna Pollack).

From the curator:
“It’s exciting that the Festival features a Neurogaming & Health track for the first time, so it’s all fresh and we’re engaging new communities with games for change. We tried to bring a broad perspective — from top-down efforts funded by government, to successful private ventures, to open-source indie communities and even neurogaming as art.”

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G4C Industry Circle: Amplify Games on extending learning in and outside of school


We are pleased to present our last article in our 2015/16 Industry Circle series, which aims to acknowledge the achievements and challenges in the growing social impact games industry. We hope you enjoy the following article from Amplify Games, and we’ll see you at our Google Hangout Q&A with the Amplify team on May 10! RSVP here.
G4C Industry Circle Amplify Games


At Amplify Games, we are focused on the importance of extending learning both in and outside of school.

We all know that high-quality digital tools and interactive experiences can add great value when well integrated into classroom instruction. But we also know that instructional time is extremely limited and educators always have a great deal of material (often too much) to cover. Have you ever heard a teacher say, “I have too much time with my students and not enough content to fill that time”? Of course not! That’s why our mission at Amplify Games is to captivate students with educational games that will motivate them to increase the amount of time they spend and their engagement with complex texts and ideas, both in the classroom and in their free time.

Here are some lessons learned from our experiences creating learning games that might help you design games that excite and engage students.

We partner with world-class game designers so the students who play our games don’t have to give up the exceptional graphics and production value they expect from their favorite games. The games were designed by commercial game designers and studios in collaboration with leading academics and pedagogy experts to help strengthen engagement and skills in English language arts (ELA), math, and science.


As one student said, “I’ve been playing games for my whole life, but I never knew there would be a game that I would love that was for learning. That shocked me so much. … It reminds me I’m just sitting home in my man cave, just playing and playing.” (Yes, this 6th grader has a man cave for game playing, so you know he’s a tough critic!)

It’s not enough just to make educational content sufficiently palatable so that students can stomach the learning component, while still considering the learning part to be yucky. So our approach is to actively inspire students and help build their confidence in key academic domains including algebra, life science, and the close reading of literature.

We spent three years conducting iterative playtesting with over 1,000 students, developing our relationships with groups of playtesters over 8- to 10-week sessions to get the most useful feedback. Now these students have evolved a framework for thinking about key academic topics—they say they’re considering a career in medicine after playing our science games or that our math games “helped me realize that you can do anything with numbers.”

The more time students have with such learning games, the more room for these transformational moments. And when students play engaging games outside of classroom instruction, they get incremental exposure to critical academic topics and skills. That’s why we encourage schools to identify opportunities for students to access our games outside the typical class schedule. Some schools set aside rooms where students can play the games during lunch and after school; others allow the students to take tablets home at night and on weekends. Our ELA games are integrated with a digital library of over 600 texts, ranging from classics to contemporary, fiction and nonfiction; along with the games, students can benefit from extended access to this library outside of class.


A recent report by Common Sense Media shows that on average, students ages 8 to 12 spend almost 4.5 hours of screen time every day, not including time spent for school or homework. For teens, that number increases to over 6.5 hours every day. With Amplify Games, educators can reclaim some of that screen time for extended reading and learning, without cutting into their valuable and limited instructional time.

For more about our game design philosophy and school implementations, join us on May 10 for a special G4C Industry Circle Google Hangout. We’ll discuss how our goal to create meaningful games for extended voluntary play translated into the guiding principles for our development process, and we’ll share insights from our research about how students are engaging with our games outside the classroom.

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Resource Review: District Game-based Learning Implementation Guide

At the 2016 Games for Learning Summit, taking place at the 13th annual Games for Change Festival on June 23-24 in NYC, we will be highlighting recent research and tools developed by our community and partners to support educators working in game-based learning.

Filament Games recently launched one such guide for teachers and school administrators. This implementation guide includes case studies, worksheets and lesson templates, tips from teachers, even funding sources. We’ve invited Kat Shanahan, Marketing Coordinator at Filament Games, to tell us more about this resource and how it can impact the games for learning community!


“Our school board members who have children in the schools say, ‘Finally, something for the kids that’s more than a book. Something different, but still delivering all that great content that we want our kids to learn.”

– Michael Mades, Sun Prairie School District




Hearing stories like these from educators and administrators who are using games in the field is the most rewarding part of working in the serious games industry. Stories about kids having “a-ha moments” and educators “seeing the lightbulb turn on” happen every day in schools across the country.


Creating the Guide

These stories and our colleagues in the field were the impetus behind the creation of the District Game-based Learning Implementation Guide. Collecting their stories and experiences into one downloadable document created a valuable resource for educators interested in games.

Based on the challenges they encountered and their essential components of success, we also supplied supporting documentation to help educators and administrators set technology and game-based learning goals.

We want this free guide to help educators and administrators feel more comfortable adding rich, digital content to their technology plans. The guide provides templates and worksheets so that administrators can organize their thoughts, feel prepared to talk to vendors about game-based learning packages, and identify ways to customize their implementation plan to fit the needs of their schools and districts.


Spotlight on Sun Prairie School District

For the creation of this guide we partnered with the talented and inspiring educators and administrators of the Sun Prairie School District. In the summer of 2015, the Sun Prairie School District implemented a game-based learning program to complement their 1:1 Chromebook initiative. Their custom game-based learning program is used in all elementary and middle schools within the district.

A significant key to their success was offering educators professional development opportunities as the program was being implemented. Through teacher game nights, professional development days, and game design theory classes, educators were exposed to the philosophy of teaching with games. Not only did these events provide a way for educators to gain familiarity with the games themselves, but also achieved educator buy-in by strengthening educators’ understanding of the motivations behind this implementation.


“If you know why you’re going to choose an instructional strategy you’re more likely to succeed. If you don’t start with why it’s just one more thing to do.”

– Anne Larson, Sun Prairie School District  


Now in the second year of their game-based learning program, Sun Prairies School District administrators are using data gained through case studies, teacher observations, and district game-based learning dashboards to expand their technology plans. The game-based learning program has even ignited student interest in making games. As part of a passion project, educators are working with students to take classroom content and design a paper prototype for a game.




Getting Started with Games

Implementing a game-based learning program at a district-wide level is an exciting endeavor. Using the power of games to engage, inspire, and motivate students and teachers has yielded significant results for districts all over the country. Our hope in sharing these stories is that school and district administrators will feel empowered and prepared to use games to transform a child’s learning experience.

If you’re interested in hearing more about the Sun Prairie School District’s implementation or would like to download game-based learning technology plans and worksheets, access the free District Game-based Learning Implementation Guide here:



If you are an educator, learning game developer, instructional technologist or school administrator, we encourage you to attend the G4C Festival, where we’ll have interactive sessions and networking opportunities on game-based assessment, VR in the classroom, ed tech business models, and more. Discounted tickets for educators are available. Register here.

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More G4C Festival talks // Early-bird pricing ends tonight!

2016 Games for Change Festival banner

Time is almost out!
Early-bird rates on Festival passes
expire tonight!

Your last chance to pick up early-bird passes to the Games for Change Festival (June 23-24) is tonight at 11:59 p.m. EST. Register now and save $50!


Announcing more speakers!

Here are just some of the speakers you will hear from at the Festival’s three tracks: Games for Learning, Neurogaming & Health, and Civics & Social Issues. Miss our first announcement about speakers? Check it out here.
Civics & Social Issues
This track highlights games’ ability to engage with concerns around social justice and responsible citizenship.

William Adams
Chairman, National Endowment for the Humanities

Sean Vanaman
Designer and writer, Firewatch

Sam Barlow
Developer, Her Story

Games for Learning
Hear from emerging leaders in game-based learning at our second annual Games for Learning Summit.

Graeme Devine
Chief game wizard, Magic Leap

Deirdre Quarnstrom
Director, Microsoft Education

Porter Stowell
Head of strategy and business development, IBM Serious Games

Neurogaming & Health
These sessions will explore the interactive experiences that aim to improve our brains and bodies.

Mike Ambinder
Experimental psychologist, Valve Corporation

Robin Arnott
Developer, SoundSelf

Stanley Yang
CEO, NeuroSky
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Games and Media Summit wrap-up


Back from the future:
Games and Media Summit wrap-up


On Monday, we hosted our second annual Games and Media Summit at the Tribeca Film Festival. Here are some highlights!

  • $20,000 raised for GameChanger Charity: In our Playing for Change charity game-a-thon, celebrity livestreamers CaptainSparklez and Tom Syndicate raised nearly $20,000 for GameChanger Charity, which brings video games to terminally ill children in hospitals. 
  • $10,000 awarded in Feed the Pig game design competition: Artist Scott Garner won a grand prize of $10,000 for his game concept, Yesterday’s Tomorrow, which explores how your choices affect the future by visiting the future. The Feed the Pig Challenge tasked game developers to create a game to engage young Americans to think differently about savings, debt and financial security.
  • Challenge of Diversity winner received $10,000 grant: Interlude announced the winner of a $10,000 production grant for The Challenge of Diversity, a competition where the game developer and filmmaker communities were asked to collaborate and create an interactive series. Check out the winner’s and finalists’ videos here.
  • 14 interactive games and experiences: From games with costumes as controllers to augmented and virtual reality, the G4C Arcade at the Summit highlighted games’ powerful potential and gave a glimpse into what they’ll look like in the not-too-distant future.
  • Sold-out panels and sessions: Videos coming soon to our YouTube channel! The Summit featured talks on community cultivation, mental health, cognitive therapy, gender and diversity, and more.

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Games for Change Festival early-bird deadline extended!


Early-bird deadline extended!


We’re extending the deadline for early-bird passes to the Games for Change Festival! Register by April 29 to save $50. Don’t forget to check out our first look at Festival speakers.


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Announcing the first G4C Festival speakers!

2016 Games for Change Festival banner

Announcing the first keynote speakers!

This year’s Games for Change Festival offers three tracks, each with their own lineup of stellar speakers: Games for Learning, Neurogaming & Health, and Civics & Social Issues.



Games for Learning
Hear from emerging leaders in game-based learning, including a keynote by Magic Leap’s Chief Game Wizard Graeme Devine and a panel on VR in the classroom featuring Valve, Google Education, and Blippar. Then go hands-on with Minecraft Education, includification advocates AbleGamers, and the live-action roleplayers at Classcraft in our workshops.


Neurogaming & Health
Take a deep dive into the interactive experiences that aim to improve our brains and bodies. NeuroSky CEO Stanley Yang breaks down the history of NeuroSky biosensors, from their Star Wars Force Trainer and beyond. Six to Start CEO and founder Adrian Hon presents his studio’s ongoing work in health apps and their game Zombies, Run!, which boasts 2.5 million players.


Civics & Social Issues
This track highlights games’ ability to engage with concerns around social justice and responsible citizenship. Girl Scouts CEO Anna Maria Chávez speaks about encouraging girls in STEM and video games. Feminist Frequency managing editor Carolyn Petit, who collaborates on the Tropes vs. Women in Video Games series and reviews games from a feminist perspective, delivers our annual State of the Industry.
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Tonight: Games and Media Summit regular registration pricing ends!

Games and Media Summit

Not many passes remain for the Games and Media SummitPass prices increase tonight at 11:59 p.m. EST, so be sure to get yours and save now.

(Please note the Games and Media Summit and Games for Change Festival are separate events that require separate registrations!)



Games and Media Summit - Program

The Games and Media Summit program features talks from NYU professor Ken Perlin, neuroscientist Dr. Adam Gazzaley, Twitch and YouTube gaming stars, the creator of the critically acclaimed game Her Story, Monument Valley makers ustwo, and the pioneers behind biofeedback in Major League Baseball.

Games and Media Summit - Arcade
Immerse yourself in other worlds at the G4C Arcade, open all day at the Summit. Try VR experiences that bring documentary filmmaking to life, play games that react to your emotions, wear costumes that function as game controllers, explore museums through augmented reality, and more.

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