NYC Youth Design Political Parties (and games) at the ‘Get the Party Started’ Game Jam

By Games for Change
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A significant percentage of Americans are currently dissatisfied with both political parties in the United States, with statistics showing increasing public support for the establishment of a third political party, especially among younger voters. This issue is the focus of one of the 2020 G4C Student Challenge themes called ‘Get the Party Started, supported by iCivics. The theme challenges students to envision a new political party and design a game that reveals how their party will successfully enter the 2020 presidential race. 

On February 21st, G4C teamed up with  iCivics and the New-York Historical Society for a 1-day ‘Get the Party Started’ game jam, giving the next generation of voters a voice in party politics. At the event, students learned the basics of game design from an independent game designer through remixing Rock, Paper, Scissors and creating digital games in Scratch.  A representative from iCivics provided insight into our country’s dominant two-party political system and introduced students to Presidential campaign strategies through the game Win the White House.  Partners at the New-York Historical Society led students through a special tour of one of the museum’s newest exhibits – Meet the Presidents, providing a historical backdrop for the day’s challenge, and further fueling their creative ideas for games. During the afternoon, students worked collaboratively to bring their visions to life using a variety of digital tools including Minecraft and Scratch. The day culminated with a share-out during which teams presented their projects and pitched their ideas to their peers and experts in the room. 

Game Jam
Game Jam participants tour the new ‘Meet the Presidents’ exhibit at the New-York Historical Society
 
The final games demonstrated student’s passion for game design and interest in the day’s theme, with concepts that critiqued the current two-party system and remedied its shortcomings.  One game did this by centering around a fictitious third party that was ironically destined to fail. Each party was represented by mascots from an animated children’s movie. The player’s goal was to gain enough votes to defeat the Democratic and Republican parties, but doing so required money.  Money, in turn, could only be gained through securing more votes, illustrating how difficult it currently is for a third major political party to succeed in presidential elections. Another student game showcased just how hot-blooded politics can be. In this button-mashing multiplayer, players assumed the identity of a Democrat, Republican, or brand new third party member, and battled it out to reach the most votes first.  The winner of this quick, high tension game won the presidency.   

“Students are surrounded by news and social media posts about political events and tensions, especially during this election. They have thoughts and ideas about the way things are and the way they ought to be. This Games for Change Student Challenge puts them in charge, and gives them a chance, not only to be listened to, but to enact change in a world they create. It’s a great way to practice agency through thoughtful and creative learning. I am so excited by the political enthusiasm of these young people who can’t even vote yet!”

– Molly Launceford, iCivics

Game Jam
Students create games in Scratch at the Get the Party Started Game Jam on Feb 21
 
This was the second game jam in a series of four jams that are scheduled to take place in NYC during the 2019-2020 school year – each aligned with a program theme. ‘Get the Party Started’ game jams took place in each of the program’s ‘spotlight cities’ including Detroit and Los Angeles. Students are encouraged to enter their games in the 2020 Challenge competition – for the chance to win awesome prizes, including a $1,000 Grand Prize Scholarship. For more information on the competition, visit bit.ly/g4c_challenge or send an email to studentchallenge@gamesforchange.org

A big thank you to our amazing theme and game jam partners – iCivics and the New-York Historical Society – and to all of the talented students who attended!