Neurogaming & Health at #G4C17: Your brain on games

2017 Games for Change Festival - passes now on sale

2017 G4C Festival Neurogaming & Health track banner

Explore the links between behavioral psychology, the neuroscience of decision-making and game mechanics

The Neurogaming & Health track at the Games for Change Festival will dive into the myths and realities of brain-training games and highlight the latest and greatest health and neuroscience games with purpose. This track will examine not only novel research projects and successful games, but also how game creators and researchers can embrace and learn from failure.

Keynotes include:

  • Luc St-Onge (associate producer, Ubisoft) and Joseph Koziak (CEO, Amblyotech Inc.) share the story behind their collaboration on Dig Rush, a game that doctors prescribe to children to treat lazy eye.
  • Moran Cerf (professor, Kellogg School of Management) highlights how neuroscience is shifting our understanding of and approach to measuring engagement.

A screenshot from Dig Rush

From Dig Rush.


Games for mind and body.

(Brain)power to the people

  • Jane Roskams (neuroscientist and executive strategist in academic and nonprofit leadership) presents Mozak, a new neuron-mapping game and follow-up to FoldIt.
  • Seth Cooper (assistant professor, Northeastern University) speaks about games for scientific discovery and how drawing on user interfaces from games can help improve citizen science software.
  • Attila Szantner (CEO and co-founder, Massively Multiplayer Online Science) and Bergur Finnbogason (senior development manager, CCP Games) tell the story of Project Discovery in EVE Online.


A screenshot from Rhythm School

Rhythm School, a tablet-based game created to test children’s rhythmic abilities.

Improving players’ quality of life 

  • Ola Ozernov-Palchik (Tufts University) explores the link between our ability to follow a rhythm and our reading development.
  • Leigh Christie (Isobar NowLab Americas) shares how augmented reality will help the blind navigate and argues that virtual realities will come to augment — rather than replace — the human experience.


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Meet the curator

Please give a warm welcome to the brains behind the Neurogaming & Health track.

Amy Robinson Sterling is the executive director of EyeWire, a game to map the brain. She has advised the White House OSTP and the U.S. Senate on crowdsourcing and open innovation. Under her leadership, EyeWire’s neuroscience visualizations have appeared at TED and in Times Square in NYC. She helped create the world’s first neuroscience virtual reality experience. She tweets from @amyleesterling


Other opportunities for participating in the Festival:

  • Pitch your in-development game: Submissions for our on-stage Pitch Event close on June 30. Making a game for civic engagement or in response to current political events? We want to hear from you.
  • Make VR games for neuroscience: Are you a VR game creator or neuroscience researcher? Apply to join our VR Brain Jam (July 28-30). Participants will receive free passes to the Festival and VR for Change Summit (July 31 – August 2), and may have a chance to present their prototypes at the Summit.
  • Volunteer at the Festival: In exchange for volunteering, we invite you to attend part of the Festival, where you will hear from experts, meet others in our community, and experience new games.
  • Book your booth in the G4C Marketplace: Our b2b expo at the Festival invites companies and game studios to demo their games, technologies, and platforms to potential partners and clients.



What are you looking forward to?
We want to hear from you! Share what you want to see, who you want to meet, or which talks you’re excited about on Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook with #G4C17.

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Civics & Social Issues at #G4C17: Fake news, immigration, women’s rights, and other international political issues

2017 Games for Change Festival - passes now on sale

Banner for G4C Festival Civics & Social Issues track

Screenshot from Four Horsemen


Fake news, immigration, human rights, and more …
The Civics & Social Issues track explores the tremendous international political changes over the last year.


What’s the role of games during political and civic turbulence? How can we respond and adapt as a field, apply our games to real-world change, and perhaps think a little differently about our work?

The Civics & Social Issues track brings together speakers who address these questions, while elevating a diverse range of voices from independent and commercial game development whose work engages with international political topics in a different way than institutionally-driven games for change.

Keynotes include:

  • Madeline Di Nonno (CEO of the Geena Davis Institute) presents the institute’s groundbreaking research tool, the GD-IQ (Geena Davis Inclusion Quotient) to evaluate gender bias in media.
  • Paolo Pedercini (game developer, artist and educator, Molleindustria / Carnegie Mellon University) looks at games in the current political climate through protest games and playful resistance.
  • Mary Flanagan (director, Tiltfactor Lab at Dartmouth College) shares how to get hard evidence out of a game for social change.
  • Tracy Fullerton (director of the Game Innovation Lab at the USC School of Cinematic Arts) discusses why games for the humanities like Walden, a game are critical even as their federal funding is threatened.
  • Colleen Macklin (professor at Parsons School of Design and founder and co-director of PETLab) examines the ways that games and play are political. 

People interacting with the AR app Priya's Shakti

International political issues are at the forefront of the Civics & Social Issues track.

In the age of “fake news”

  • Celia Hodent (director of UX, Epic Games) addresses cognitive biases and logical fallacies in games.
  • Lindsay Grace (associate professor at American University) presents an overview of current newsgames and how Factitious can help newsrooms understand how their content is used.

Fighting for human rights

  • Ram Devineni (producer, Priya’s Shakti) shares how his comic books and augmented reality app challenge sexual violence.
  • Leena Kejriwal (founder, MISSING Public Art and Awareness Campaign) explains how MISSING uses metrics to examine empathy and understanding around human trafficking.

Art for Club Penguin's Coins for Change initiative.

Art from Club Penguin‘s Coins for Change

Other highlights from the Civics & Social Issues track …

  • Nicole Rustad (chief impact officer, Vortovia) speaks about her work at Disney on Club Penguin‘s Coins For Change initiative, which inspired millions of kids in a community-driven, virtual world campaign over 10 years.
  • Kevin Chen (founder, Nuclear Fishin’ Software) shares lessons from Four Horsemen and ways that even the smallest studios can efficiently include more diversity in their games.
  • Elizabeth Maler (co-founder of Accidental Queens and co-author of A Normal Lost Phone) gives tips on stealthing your game’s social impact.
  • The finalists of G4C’s Migration Design Challenge present their different approaches to creating a game about conflicts and opportunities related to integration.


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Meet the curators
Please give a warm welcome to the two talented game designers who are curating the Civics & Social Issues track.

Naomi Clark is a game designer, teacher, and scholar who has been making games since 1999. She has contributed to over three dozen titles in various roles, including designer, producer, artist, writer, and programmer. Naomi’s experience spans from developing games for well-known companies such as LEGO to smaller-scale independent and experimental work.  

Lindsay Grace is an associate professor at American University and founding director of the American University Game Lab and Studio. He has published more than 45 papers, articles and book chapters on games since 2009. His creative work has been selected for showcase in more than eight countries and 12 states, including New York, Paris, Rio De Janeiro, Singapore, Istanbul, Sao Paulo, Chicago and Vancouver.  


What are you looking forward to at the Festival?
We want to hear from you! Share what you want to see, who you want to meet, or which talks you’re excited about on Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook with #G4C17.



Reminder: We’re looking for Festival volunteers

The Festival would not be possible without our talented volunteers. In exchange for volunteering, we invite you to attend part of the Festival, where you will hear from experts, meet others in our community, and experience new impact games. Sign up to volunteer here.



Limited Marketplace booths available

Apply to showcase your game or tech at the Festival. The G4C Marketplace is a curated b2b expo that invites companies and game studios to demo new games, technologies and platforms to over 800 attendees. Apply here.

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Pitch your game at the 2017 Games for Change Festival

2017 Games for Change Festival - passes now on sale
Banner of past Pitch Event participants

Our on-stage Pitch Event at the Games for Change Festival invites select game creators to present their in-progress games in to a live jury and audience. We are looking for games that creatively respond to current political events and to encourage civic engagement.

Apply for the chance to demo your game live in front of potential partners, funders, the Games for Change Festival audience, and an on-stage panel of judges who will respond to your pitch with questions and feedback.

Participants will receive two complimentary passes to the Festival. The deadline is one month away on June 30, so be sure to start your application soon.

Apply to the Pitch Event
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VR Brain Jam: Brainstorm new VR games with neuroscientists

2017 Games for Change Festival - passes now on sale

VR Brain Jam at the Games for Change Festival and VR for Change Summit

Are you a game creator or neuroscience researcher? Apply to join our VR Brain Jam

How can concepts from neuroscience be applied to virtual reality experiences? What happens when you take virtual reality expertise and apply it to neuroscience problems?

The VR Brain Jam is a collaborative event that will pair neuroscience researchers and game developers to create games exploring how VR can be used in neuroscience research and cognitive therapy.

The game jam, co-hosted by Games for Change and Carnegie Mellon University’s Entertainment Technology Center, will take place July 28-30 at The New School’s Parsons School of Design in New York City. Participants will receive free passes to the Games for Change Festival and VR for Change Summit (July 31 – August 2), and may have a chance to present their prototypes at the Summit. Spots are limited. Apply to join one of the 15 game jam teams on the VR Brain Jam website.

Deadline to apply: June 20


Apply to participate in VR Brain Jam

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⏰ 48 hours left to get your early-bird discount on Festival passes

Games for Change Festival 2017

Early birds get discounts!
Time is running out for early-bird passes

The early-bird discount for the Games for Change Festival expires on Thursday, May 4, at 11:59 p.m. EST. Buy now and save!

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G4C Marketplace

Showcase your games or tech at the Festival

The G4C Marketplace is a b2b expo at the Festival that invites companies and game studios to demo new games, technologies, and platforms to over 800 attendees, including funders, developers, educators, government, and top social innovators. Applications are due by June 15. Applicants will be notified on a rolling basis — send in your application soon to reserve a spot.

Apply here

2017 G4C Festival speaker lineup

Last week, we announced our first round of presenters for the Games for Change Festival and VR for Change Summit. Check out the lineup here.

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Announcing the first 2017 Games for Change Festival speakers

Games for Change Festival 2017

Announcing the first keynote speakers!

Early-bird extended through May 4

The three-day Games for Change Festival and VR for Change Summit will feature keynote presentations from Megan Smith (former White House chief technology officer); Gabo Arora (founder and creative director at LightShed); Anjali Bhimani (actress/voice of Symmetra in Overwatch and Nisha in Fallout 4); Luke Crane (head of games at Kickstarter); and many more.

Looking forward to this lineup? We’ve extended our early-bird rate on all Festival passes for one week! Buy yours before May 4 and save!

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VR for Change Summit logo

The first of-its-kind VR for Change Summit will focus on advancing virtual technologies for positive social change, bringing together developers, artists, storytellers, journalists, researchers, activists and policymakers for dialogue, demos, connections and debates focused on new initiatives to advance the field.

Dawn Laguens, executive vice president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, will illustrate that use of virtual reality and innovative apps have impacted empathy and continue to revolutionize the way people access reproductive health care. Gabo Arora, founder and creative director of LightShed and maker of VR documentaries Clouds Over Sidra, Waves of Grace, and My Mother’s Wing, presents a historical overview of visual media and its uses for empathy. Amy and Ryan Green, the creators behind the award-winning game That Dragon, Cancer, share how they’re bringing their experience to VR. Aldis Sipolins, head of VR and game design at IBM, will provide an overview of presence and ecological validity in psychological research.
G4C Festival Games for Learning Summit track, with Alphabear

Deborah Quazzo, co-founder and managing partner of GSV Acceleration, will provide a perspective on what developers and investors should know about the future of the games for learning market. Constance Steinkuehler, professor at University of California Irvine, presents 10 big findings for games for impact from over a decade of research. David Edery, CEO of Spry Fox, will share the process of developing an educational version of his studio’s popular, unbearably cute game Alphabear. Jane Robinson, CFO of First Book, examines what educators and after-school providers want from GBL products and how they browse, evaluate, purchase learning games. The team behind EduApps4Syria will look to mobilize the G4C community to help reach and serve some of the most vulnerable kids in the world through their open-source platform.
G4C Festival Civics & Social Issues track, with an image from Molleindustria's Casual Games for Protestors

Madeline Di Nonno, CEO of the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media, presents the institute’s groundbreaking research tool, the GD-IQ (Geena Davis Inclusion Quotient) to evaluate gender representation in media. Nicole Rustad, former corporate citizenship program manager at Disney, will give a talk on 10 years of kids helping kids in the virtual world of Club Penguin. Tracy Fullerton, USC Game Innovation Lab professor and director, discusses games in the arts and humanities, with examples from Walden, a game. Politics and game-making will take center stage as Paolo Pedercini, professor at Carnegie Mellon University and the game maker behind Molleindustria, examines protest games and playful resistance, and Colleen Macklin, associate professor at Parsons School of Design, highlights the political potential of games and play, and how they can change public opinion. Mary Flanagan, director of Tiltfactor Lab at Dartmouth College, makes the case for evidence-based design.
G4C Festival Neurogaming & Health track, with an image from Project Discovery in EVE Online

Go behind the scenes of Ubisoft’s game to treat lazy eye, Dig Rush, with Joseph Koziak, CEO of Amblyotech, and Luc St-Onge, associate producer at Ubisoft. Hear how players are making scientific contributions through EVE Online with Attila Szantner, co-founder of Massively Multiplayer Online Science, and through online protein-folding game Foldit with Seth Cooper, assistant professor at Northeastern University. David Miller, program officer at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), provides overview of health-relevant federal funding opportunities supporting game development. Moran Cerf, neuroscientist and professor at the Kellogg School of Management, how we can use recent understanding of the brain to improve experiences. Deutsche Telekom’s Wolfgang Kampbartold discusses how co-opting simple everyday behaviors like gaming can allow us to use mobile technology and big data to solve some of society’s most urgent problems with updates from Sea Hero Quest.

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G4C Festival speaker lineup coming soon

Games for Change Festival 2017

Speaker lineup will be revealed on April 27

Don’t forget to check our website next Thursday to see who will take the stage at this year’s Festival. But there is no need to wait to get your passes! Early-bird passes are available now for a limited time.
All Games for Change Festival passes are discounted during our early-bird period, including our 3-day premium pass that includes access to all Festival keynotes, workshops, the G4C Marketplace, and the all-new VR for Change Summit. Take advantage and get the lowest price offered!  

Price chart for early-bird rate passes for the Games for Change Festival

2-day and 1-day passes are also available. See all pass options here.

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Announcing $5,000 in scholarships to Playcrafting’s game design courses in NYC

Games for Change and Playcrafting logos
Virtual reality at Playcrafting

We are proud to announce $5,000 in scholarships, sponsored by the Bigglesworth Family Foundation, to Playcrafting’s game design courses in New York City.

Playcrafting empowers the game development community through local events and education in New York City, Boston, and San Francisco. Their game development and design topics curriculum is taught by top instructors with real-world experience.

With these scholarships, we hope to enable more aspiring creators to acquire the skills they need to design games for social change and share their stories. To help make quality game-making education available to under-represented groups in the games industry, we are thrilled to partner with Playcrafting to offer the following scholarships:

  • Learn Unity in 8 Weeks: A $1,000 scholarship, bringing the total course cost to $1,500 for the next course starting in April
  • Game Writing Primer: A full $600 scholarship for the next course starting April 18
  • 8-Class Pass: A full $200 scholarship for entry to 8 one-night classes

The application deadline is April 10 at 11:59 p.m. EST.

Each request will be reviewed by a panel of Playcrafting instructors and advisers. They will consider the following when reviewing responses: Would this person be able to attend a Playcrafting course without the support of a scholarship? How will attending this course benefit this person’s game design skills? How will the applicant use these new skills in the long-term?

Apply Here

If you have any questions, please reach out to Games for Change at

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Reminder: G4C Festival submissions due this Friday, March 24

Games for Change Festival 2017

3 days left to submit your game or talk!
Deadline for Festival submissions is March 24

We are accepting submissions to the 2017 Games for Change Festival through March 24, 11:59 p.m. EST. A limited number of games and session ideas will be selected and receive complimentary Festival passes. Please send your submissions through the forms that we have linked to below.

Game Awards

Each year, we celebrate the year’s best social impact and learning games at our G4C Awards ceremony and feature an on-site arcade of the Awards finalists for Festival attendees to play. If you have launched or will launch a game between January 1, 2016 and March 31, 2017, then go for it!

Categories include: Most Significant Impact, Most Innovative, Best Game Play, Best Learning Game, and Game of the Year.

Deadline: March 24, 11:59 p.m. EST

Session Ideas

The 2017 Festival will focus on emerging areas in the impact games sector, each as a unique track of programming:

  • Neurogaming & Health
  • Civics & Social Impact
  • Games for Learning
  • VR for Change Summit

Have an idea for a talk that doesn’t fit in one of these tracks? Don’t worry — presentations, discussions, demos and challenging ideas outside of these topics are welcome, too!

Deadline: March 24, 11:59 p.m. EST

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G4C Migration Challenge winner announced

G4C Migration Design Challenge

Congratulations to planpolitik for its winning concept, Next Stop: Weichenbach

We are thrilled to announce the winner of the Games for Change (G4C) Migration Design Challenge, an initiative presented by The Richard Lounsbery Foundation and in partnership with the Migration Policy Institute. The Migration Design Challenge aims to inspire the creation of a game that connects existing and migrant communities and emphasizes cultural integration.

The winner of the challenge’s $10,000 grand prize is Next Stop: Weichenbach, a game concept submitted by German design studio planpolitik. Next Stop was selected for its relevance to the pressing public policy issue of refugee integration, impact goals, and gameplay — the simulation game places the player in the shoes of a range of characters to foster empathy from multiple viewpoints. Additionally, the well-defined game system — inspired by face-to-face training simulations — is suited and designed for classroom/in-school use, demonstrating that the context of use was considered in the design.

“Around the world, debates about the integration of immigrants and refugees are taking place in the media, classrooms, the justice system, political rallies, and even pop culture,” said Migration Policy Institute Senior Policy Analyst Jeanne Batalova. “The most appealing feature of the Next Stop: Weichenbach game concept was its practical approach to addressing a real-life issue: How to ensure newcomers’ integration while acknowledging the legitimacy of different stakeholders’ views and interests?”

Earlier this year, the Migration Design Challenge asked game designers how can a game help people understand and work through concerns over perceived job competition? How can a game experience emphasize community engagement to help migrants and their neighbors improve their understanding of each others’ cultures?

G4C received 190 submissions from 31 countries, including multiple submissions from Belarus and Kazakhstan; dozens of entries from the UK, US, and Latin America; and individual submissions from countries such as Croatia, Azerbaijan, Lithuania, and Slovenia. Many submissions highlighted the struggles of immigrant journeys and sought to highlight the inequities immigrants can face. Some depicted highly personal experiences and reflected concerns, fears, and hopes for the future. A number of gameplay formats were proposed, but most were simulation adventure games, depicting a multitude of global viewpoints. Most submissions (126 out of 190) were from people who had no prior experience working on migration policy or issues.

Since 2012, G4C has organized game design challenges around a wide range of topics, including nuclear threat reduction, reproductive health, and space exploration. This year the focus was on immigrant integration, sponsored by The Richard Lounsbery Foundation. The Migration Policy Institute was invited to be the subject matter expert. The 190 submissions received in the Migration Design Challenge represented the second highest number of the eight challenges that G4C has run to date and well above the average number of 75 submissions received. Challenges that ask for only game concepts generally receive higher submissions than the ones that require developers send a prototype.

A panel of game designer judges and subject matter experts from the Migration Policy Institute selected one winner, who will receive a $10,000 prize to support further development of their game, and four honorary finalists who will receive complementary tickets to the Games for Change Festival.

Next Stop: Weichenbach (planpolitik)
A multiplayer, browser-based simulation game that allows up to 35 players to take over the roles of fictitious municipal decision makers and other stakeholders to negotiate an intriguing scenario about the integration of newly arriving refugees. The game aims at fostering empathy as well as creating awareness about the legitimate interests of all groups involved. Teachers moderate the experience in the classroom or through online portal, and students engage in discussions from various viewpoints to understand needs and concerns of all sides.

Below are details on the four finalists selected for honorable mention.

Welcome Home (ELF Experience)
Honorable Mention: Best Representation of Theme
An open-ended game styled after The Sims creates a lively, diverse building community and invites players to expand knowledge about immigrant groups; explore the challenges and opportunities presented by immigrant integration; and recognize the importance of diversity and integration to the overall community’s well-being.

Robolandia (Alexander Cooney)
Honorable Mention: Most Imaginative Gameplay
Players experience immigration first-hand by creating both native and immigrant avatars and controlling their characters’ life decisions over the course of three simulated weeks.

By abstracting people as whimsical robots, and by substituting real communities with a fictional, prosperous island filled with opportunity, players will be able to engage in meaningful dialogue with the underlying social, economic, and residential tensions and opportunities created by immigration without becoming distracted or biased by their real-life manifestations.

Tapestry (Team Kaizen)
Honorable Mention: Best Mechanics as Message
A real-time strategy game that helps players understand the cultural backgrounds of both natives and immigrants in a community.

The player would have to build cultural bridges between all the various peoples so when stressors such as societal/political turmoil come along, the strength of their community tapestry (with each community member being a metaphorical ‘thread’) would be tested. The end goal is to instill behaviors in the player that involve celebrating differences while unifying and finding strength in love and community.

Stand on my Blanket (Natasha Boskic)
Honorable Mention: Best Innovation & Player Engagement
Based on the blanket exercise, this mobile-phone game will encourage players to explore unfamiliar places in their city and interact asynchronously with prior and future participants. By completing a set of tasks intended to help them connect with each other and the wider community, players will hear each other’s narratives and work on issues together. The game enables participants to walk through the process of social unrest, forced displacement, migration out of the country of origin, struggles on the journey, and adaptation in a new country.

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