Google game designer details promising paths for games for change

Developers who want to make games that are catalysts for social change should look to mobile development, neuroscience and "blue oceans" as possible paths, according to Google's chief game designer Noah Falstein.

Speaking at the Games for Change Festival in New York, Falstein said as technology evolves and gaming fads come and go, developers should observe the direction the world is going in to find ways to maximize the impact of their games. He offered the audience what he described as "promising ingredients" for games for change — directions he believes are worth exploring.

The first was embracing online functionality and mobile devices. Falstein said more than five billion people will be getting smartphones and going online in the near future, and many people who currently have feature phones will soon be upgrading. Developers who make games for that audience will have an incredible amount of power. "If you make tools that can run on low-end systems, you're going to reach millions of people who will be coming online in the next few years," he said.

Being able to reach players is half the challenge, so if developers can make games that potentially billions of people can access, then that can maximize their opportunity to bring about change.

Falstein also pointed to neuroscience and psychology as an area where games can make an impact, and where specialists in the field are looking to games as part of their research. "We're going to see a lot more of that two-way street where we can help [neuroscientists and psychologists] and they can help us," he said.

Developers should also look for blue oceans — areas that have not yet been tapped. "Often, new technology can be an opening in a mountain range," he said. "Sometimes it's a fad. Sometimes it opens a whole new continent." Falstein said developers shouldn't be afraid to develop for niches, and it's important to look for untapped markets.

Lastly, developers need to be agile and iterative, fail fast and keep going, and "don't bet against the internet."

"If you can combine all these different things and take the strengths of the best of what's come before and the best of what's coming in the future, I think we can make some amazing games for change," he said.

More from Polygon

Enemy Starfighter: Homeworld from inside a fighter

  • Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare gameplay trailer

  • Diablo 3 - Xbox One vs. PC comparison

  • Hearthstone - Military Quarter gameplay video

  • Elite: Dangerous Overview video

Latest Discussions

Log In Sign Up

Log In Sign Up

Please choose a new Polygon username and password

As part of the new Polygon launch, prior users will need to choose a permanent username, along with a new password.

Your username will be used to login to Polygon going forward.

I already have a Vox Media account!

Verify Vox Media account

Please login to your Vox Media account. This account will be linked to your previously existing Eater account.

Please choose a new Polygon username and password

As part of the new Polygon launch, prior MT authors will need to choose a new username and password.

Your username will be used to login to Polygon going forward.

Forgot password?

We'll email you a reset link.

If you signed up using a 3rd party account like Facebook or Twitter, please login with it instead.

Forgot password?

Try another email?

Almost done,

By becoming a registered user, you are also agreeing to our Terms and confirming that you have read our Privacy Policy.



Choose an available username to complete sign up.

In order to provide our users with a better overall experience, we ask for more information from Facebook when using it to login so that we can learn more about our audience and provide you with the best possible experience. We do not store specific user data and the sharing of it is not required to login with Facebook.