The Gaming Revolution and Social Good

What are the people who make games for you and your kids thinking about and talking about? One way to keep an eye on this is by watching The Games for Change Festival. The 9th annual festival took place June 18-20 in New York City.

This year’s festival included big name speakers and announcements of new games as well as the release of tools to enable you to create your own games. Topics ranged from the science behind what’s going on in your brain as you play to the appeal of the graphic interface in a game environment.

You can find some of the talks at Livestream/G4C if you’d like to catch up on events.


Game-o-matic is a new game of interest to bloggers. Here’s the description:

Game-o-matic, a Knight News Challenge-funded collaboration between the Georgia Institute of Technology and the University of California at Santa Cruz, is a tool for generating journalistic games (or newsgames) through a simple “concept mapping” of relevant actors and their relationships.

A game called Dojo will help you regulate your own body’s function biofeedback style.

Deepak Chopra introduced Leela:

Leela is a Kinect and Wii retail game with the mission of connecting people to their own internal power to be happy. Extending the potential of gaming as a medium Leela offers and accesible meditative experience based in gameplay and traditional spiritual practices.

Many more games for learning, for health, for social change, and yes, even for marketing (you knew that would be there) were intoduced, discussed and demoed.

There were awards. Check the list of nominated games at 2012 Games for Change Awards nominees to see the type of games considered worthy by this group.

Prior to the event, Michelle Morrow interviewed Games for Change Co-President Michelle Byrd. It’s an interview worth reading. Here’s how Byrd described getting involved with G4C.

I had just stepped down from my position running a non-profit independent film organization. I wanted a change. I wanted to be involved in supporting media that was trying to make a difference in the world. Sometimes “Games for Change” related popped up in my Twitter feed. Whatever they were tweeting about intrigued me so I did some investigating. A couple of weeks later I was in Soho having lunch with one of the founders and learning about something that I had no idea about – the intersection of games and social change. By the time she started telling me that the organization was developing a game based on a book I was obsessed with at the time – Nick Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn’s Half the Sky – I was hooked. I met Asi Burak, a game developer, and a couple of months later we had an opportunity to team up and put ourselves forward as a new leadership team to run the organization as Co-Presidents. Kind of crazy how organic the whole transition has been.

Later in the interview she was asked what was most exciting about this year’s event. Her answer reflects the reason that all of us should be interested in what game developers are doing.

Convergence.The best and most unique feature is the sheer convergence of ideas, people, causes, passions.It’s a committed crowd coming from numerous disciplines – game designers, developers, publishers, cause owners, academics, non-profits and NGOs. It’s the convergence of worlds which don’t necessarily interact in a daily on-going basis.

Twitter Talk

Since the festival is in progress as I write this, Twitter is the best way to give you a sense of the conversation there. Here’s a sampling of tweets.

Keynote speaker Jane McGonigal made Twitter go crazy when she announced that her company Gameful will being official work with Games for Change.

jane mcgonigal
Jane McGonigal by Official GDC via photo pin cc



McGonigal promised to increase the life of everyone in the room by about 7 minutes, which prompted this tweet to the science behind her statement. For those of you who are skeptical about the value of games, this is the tweet to click through.











The conversation is ongoing through June 20 on Twitter using #G4C12 as the identifier.

More To Explore

Note: Cross-posted at BlogHer.