"Socially Conscious" Video Games Conference Playing Now in New York

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    NEWSLETTERS

    TK
    "Games 4 Change" is a non-profit which examines video game media's potential for social change.

    Here comes the Judge, for change.

    Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor will be a keynote speaker at the seventh annual Games 4 Change Festival, held this week at the New School for Design in Manhattan.

    Games 4 Change, a non-profit which “seeks to harness the extraordinary power of video games to address the most pressing issues of our day, including poverty, education, human rights, global conflict and climate” according to its website, hosts a variety of programs around the world in addition to the yearly festival, which runs from May 24th to 27th.
     
    On Monday, the first day of the festival, the topic was video games’ potential as a learning tool, particularly among teenagers. That morning, members of the World Wide Workshop Foundation presented “Globaloria,” a social network for teenaged designers of ‘educational games and interactive simulations,” according to the Foundation's website
     
    In the afternoon, “Global Kids,” a New York City-based after school program which seeks to educate middle- and high school students about global affairs, discussed their “Playing 4 Keeps” program. Begun in the 08-09 school year, “Playing 4 Keeps” provides students with the opportunity to discuss global issues and the training to engage with them through video games and other interactive media.
     
    Young people are intensely curious about how games are made,” said the Games for Change program, “and now with the availability of several game creation tools, they are becoming not just consumers, but game makers.”

    In his lecture on how video games can be used as learning tools, former Activision developer and founder of E-Line Media Alan Gershenfeld discussed the strategy game "Civilization," a sort of history simulator in which players control world civilizations through time.

    Gershenfeld also compared the Tony Hawk skateboarding games' physics engine and typical high school physics education.  Creating these and other games, Gershenfeld said, forces designers to apply "complex system thinking, rigor, and discipline," according to the Games 4 Change blog.

    Representative of the digital technologies school Quest to Learn also spoke at the conference on Monday, describing the compulsion to design video games as "a need to know, and then share what you know," according to the blog.

    Tuesday’s conference began with a keynote speech from U.S. Chief Technology Officer Aneesh Chopra, the first to hold this newly-created office

    Today the conference continued the discussion of video games as media for social change with a talk entitled “From NPR to NPG: National Public Games.”

    Pointing out that “hundreds of games are being funded across multiple government agencies,” according to Games for Change’s program, the talk speculated on the creation of a “National Public Games” committee similar to the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and the National Public Radio.
     
    This afternoon, a panel comprised of representatives for various mobile media companies will discuss mobile gaming, a phenomenon on the rise in developing countries. Mobile technology is one of the most promising and fast-growing new platforms for enacting social change in both developed and developing countries,” according to Games 4 Change. “Mobile phone games about HIV AIDS are being played by more than 16M people across Asia and Africa and are found on more than 42M devices around the world,” the program continued.
     
    Wednesday’s keynote speaker will be The Honorable Justice Sandra Day O’Connor. As the last day of the Games 4 Change festival, Wednesday’s talks focus on a variety of subjects and concerns.  
     
    That morning will be a panel entitled “The Future of Digital Media,” and at noon a panel entitled “Funding Perspectives,” which will include representatives of the MacArthur Foundation, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and Time Warner Cable’s Strategic Philanthropy & Community Affairs program, will consider how to fund socially conscious and community-based game design initiatives.
     
    Other panels that afternoon consider the implications of applying game theory to real life, and a further discussion of youth-created games, which will include representatives of “Global Kids” among its panelists.
     
    On Thursday Games for Change will sponsor “Games for Learning: Research and Design Innovation” at New York University, a series of lectures on video games as learning and research tools.

    Pre-registration for the Games 4 Change Festival has closed, but those interested can still attend at day-of registration prices.  An "Expo Night" will take place tonight at the Lang Center "where festival-goers can play games, meet each other, and enjoy food and drink in a lively and informal atmosphere" according to the website.