Vice President Al Gore opens the 8th Annual Games for Change Festival

Festival speakers include game designer Jesse Schell, Zynga.org’s Laura Hartman, U.S. Department of Education’s James H. Shelton III and Half the Sky Co-author Sheryl WuDunn

April 25, 2011 (New York, NY) – Games for Change, the leading global advocate for supporting and making games for social impact, announced today the line-up and expanded activities of its 8th Annual Games for Change Festival at the NYU Skirball Center June 20 – 22. The Games for Change Festival is the largest gaming event in New York City and the only international event uniting “games for change” creators, the public, civil society, academia, the gaming industry and media. Opening the event will be Vice President Al Gore.

“Vice President Gore is a significant global advocate who has effectively used popular media to bring issues of pressing concern to mainstream audiences,” said the Co-Presidents of Games for Change Asi Burak and Michelle Byrd. “His presence at this year’s Festival underscores the immense potential of pairing social impact with the increasing accessibility of games.”

Games have the potential to advance social good and learning: to spread information, raise awareness, inspire social action and build civic participation – and to do so globally, across cultures. This potential has grown exponentially with the emergence of games played via social media (such as Facebook) and on mobile phones, which can reach vast numbers of people.

In addition to Vice President Gore, featured speakers include: game designer Jesse Schell; Zynga.org’s Laura Hartman; U.S. Department of Education’s James H. Shelton III; and Half the Sky co-author Sheryl WuDunn.

Returning for the second year will be “Inspiring Digital Kids Through Game Design” on Monday, June 20. The AMD Foundation-sponsored day-long program is aimed at educators and organizations working in the classroom or informal settings with youth aged 10 – 18, empowering them to create their own digital games.

With the support of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, organizers are introducing the Annual Games for Change Awards. These juried Awards recognize excellence in “games for change.” All nominees will address current and/or pressing social issues or aim to produce sustainable and positive impact on society. Awards will be presented in four categories: Direct Impact, Knight News Game, Learning & Education and Transmedia. Nominees will be announced on Friday, May 6 and the awards will be presented at the Closing Night Awards Ceremony on Wednesday, June 22.

Another new feature for 2011 is the Demo Spotlight, an opportunity for game developers to present their projects on the main stage of the Games for Change Festival to an open panel of designers and funders for feedback. The six projects selected reflect the tremendous diversity and breadth of “games for change” currently in development and were selected from dozens of submissions.

The 2011 Festival marks the debut event under the leadership of Co-Presidents Burak and Byrd who joined the organization in July 2010. With the significant support of major funders the AMD Foundation, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the Festival has expanded to incorporate a number of new initiatives.

The Festival’s new institutional collaborators include:

-Come Out & Play Festival, which with Games for Change has awarded the Real-World Games for Change design challenge of $5,000 to Suzanne Kirkpatrick and Nien Lam for their outdoor game, “Commons,” which will be presented as part of the River to River Festival. This is a free, public event for over 200 participants, kicking-off the Games for Change Festival (Sunday, June 19, Father’s Day). “Commons” is a game for urban communities to improve their city through citizen stewardship. Players will scour lower-Manhattan and compete to leave the best suggestions for city improvements, building up group consensus as they play. The designers will present their findings from the game during the Festival. (Tuesday, June 21)

-Collaboration with NetHope to present The Case for Social Impact Games, a day-long program consisting of a series of case studies aimed at decision-makers from NGOs, corporations, government, non-profits and foundations interested in a high level overview of social impact games – from the best strategies and practices in this emerging field, to the metrics evaluating impact. (Monday, June 20)

-Games for Learning Institute, which is hosting the Festival at its new home, NYU Skirball Center, and co-producing a day-long thematic strand of programming around the theme Design Patterns for Games for Learning. (Wednesday, June 22)

The Games for Change Festival is open to the public. For a complete line-up of programs, speakers, and to register, visit: www.gamesforchange.org/festival

Major funding for the Games for Change Festival is provided by AMD Foundation, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, and the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. Additional support provided by The Educational Foundation of America, Fenton Communications and Kognito Interactive. Games for Change is hosted at NYU by the Games for Learning Institute. G4LI was established in 2008 with a prestigious grant from Microsoft Research, and supplemental funding from the Motorola Foundation.

Games for Change (www.gamesforchange.org)
Games for Change is the leading global advocate for supporting and making games for social impact. We bring together organizations from the social impact sector, government, media, academia, the gaming industry and the arts to grow the field, incubate new projects and provide an open platform for the exchange of ideas and resources.