Games for Change 2014: How gaming can change everything

This year's Games for Change Festival teams up with the Tribeca Film Festival to broaden its scope and approach to the discussion and examination of games dedicated to social change. Speakers at the three-day show in New York City include scientists, researchers, developers big and small and economists. Those experts gathered to discuss everything from fictional future games to the impact of gaming on education and the promise of gaming as medicine. We'll be covering all of the talks and big ideas coming out of the festival this week. Follow along with our coverage on this StoryStream.

Jenova Chen: Social games should be about an exchange of emotions, not numbers

A truly social game involves players exchanging emotions, not just helping each other boost stats, according to thatgamecompany's co-founder Jenova Chen.

Speaking at the Games for Change Festival in New York this week, Chen said he takes issue with many games that market themselves as being social because he doesn't believe they encourage social behavior at all.

"Social means emotional exchange, not number exchange," he said, referring to examples like Zynga's FarmVille to illustrate how most people's idea of being social is helping another player by giving them resources or stat boosts,...

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Games for Change Awards go to Papers, Please, Gone Home and The Mission US

Papers, Please and Gone Home took home awards at the 11th Annual Games for Change Festival today.

Lucas Pope's Papers, Please, a dystopian simulator, won the Most Innovative category, which honors games that excel in creativity and aspire to bring new ideas to games for change. It was a finalist alongside Robin Arnott's SoundSelf and 12 Hit Combo's Súbete al SITP. The game also won the Best Gameplay category, in which it was a finalist with Fullbright Company's Gone Home and Preloaded's Tyrant.

Thirteen, American Social History Project and Electric Funstuff's The Mission US: A Cheyenne...

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Tapping into player psychology for Games for Change

Game developers looking to make games that promote social change should consider looking to psychology, because "we can't fix the social incidences without fixing the underlying causes," according to Dartmouth College professor and director of game research laboratory Tiltfactor, Mary Flanagan.

Speaking at the Games for Change Festival in New York today, Flanagan said that many games that have been designed to promote social change are only scratching the tip of the iceberg, and to address the issues that are under the water developers need to look at how our social biases contribute to...

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How to achieve long term goals by changing how we think about short ones

Life is always a balancing act: in addition to planning for the future, we need to focus on our immediate environment. Many short term goals — like saving money and dieting — are ultimately beneficial for our personal futures. But in the present we may be too absorbed in the short term, for example not eating food we like or buying things we want, to see the long-reaching benefits of sticking to them.

Professor Dan Ariely, who teaches psychology and behavioral economics at Duke University, believes that understanding why we focus on our short terms goals and changing how we think about...

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How commercial games can engage players in social causes

Video games designed for commercial purposes can act as a springboard for engaging players in social causes, according to a panel of developers who recently spoke at the Games for Change Festival in New York.

The developers explained that commercial games can benefit social causes through a number of ways, which range from surface-level partnerships with charities, to working with non-profit organizations to design game levels that have social benefits for the players.

One example the CEO of Direct Relief Thomas Tighe cited was the charity's partnership with social game developer Zynga....

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How to make educational games more effective

Changing the world with games is hard.

Speaking at the 2014 Games for Change festival, Zoran Popović — University of Washington associate professor of computer science and founder of its Center for Game Science — outlined why drastic transformative change with games is difficult to achieve, and what we can do to come closer to doing so. Popović discussed two "key" world domains that often look to games, scientific discovery and scholastic mastery for a wider range of students, detailing why games haven't revolutionized these areas yet.

Popović said transformative change requires a large...

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How Minecraft is helping the United Nations improve the world

"The main thing for me is that it changes the relationship between professionals, like architects and urban planners, and ordinary people," said Pontus Westerberg, of the United Nations Human Settlements Program. "It gives power back to ordinary people."

The United Nations Human Settlements Program was established in 1978 with the idea of promoting socially and environmentally sustainable towns and cities. To do this, UN-Habitat officials say it's important that all countries have a national urban plan. Something, Westerberg said, that is "really rare." That plan needs to include space for...

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GlassLab develops game that teaches kids reasoned thinking

GlassLab Games, the studio behind SimCityEDU, launched Mars Generation One: Argubot Academy today, a game that teaches students argumentation and reasoned thinking. The studio also announced that it will make GlassLab services — a slate of analytics tools — available to developers who want to leverage the infrastructure the studio has built.

Presenting at the Games for Change Festival in New York, developers from GlassLab detailed the work and reasoning that went into Argubot Academy, a game targeted at middle school students. Collaborating with NASA and the National Writing Project, the...

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...

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The best of 2024 in gaming will reshape gambling, pro-sports and the food we eat

Speaking to a packed auditorium at the Skirball Center for the Performing Arts at New York University for the kick-off of this year's Games for Change Festival, author and game designer Jane McGonigal walked the audience through the idea of ten-year forecasting and how it impacts game design.

The idea, she explained, is similar to how Jelly Belly jellybeans can be mixed and combined to create different flavors, like a banana split or candy apple. But with forecasting, researchers look at signals, things that have become important topics of discussion, and see how they could combine in the...

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Games for Change goes mainstream with the help of Tribeca Film Festival

"It definitely raised the bar," said Games for Change co-president Asi Burak. "It's putting a spotlight on everything this community is doing on the largest stage we've ever had."

This year's festival has been redesigned from the bottom up, with changes in everything from how the talks were selected, to the way the presentations will take place, to a new public-facing element for the festival.

For the first time ever, Games for Change will be a part of Tribeca's Family Festival Street Fair. The fair, which takes over the Tribeca neighborhood in New York City on April 26, will include a...

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Games for Change festival 'Shoot for the Moon' finalists announced

Finalists for Games for Change festival's Shoot for the Moon Game Design Challenge have been announced and will compete on-stage at the event on April 23 for a $25,000 cash prize, organizers announced today.

The three finalists are Moon Rush by Lunar Rocks, a team from Ohio State University; Rocket Science by Chris Crawford; and SpaceIL Academy by Theorify. Moon Rush requires players to navigate and take pictures of the moon's surface, while Rocket Science is about finding "the ideal balance between engine power and fuel consumption" and using rocket engines. In massively multiplayer...

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Games for Change 2014 award finalists include Papers, Please, Gone Home

The eight finalists for the 2014 Games for Change Awards have been selected and include titles such as Gone Home, Papers, Please and SoundSelf, organizers announced today.

For Most Significant Impact, submissions have been narrowed down to The Mission US: A Cheyenee Odyssey, Start the Talk and Migrant Trail. In the Most Innovative category, finalists are SoundSelf and Súbete al SITP. Gone Home and TryAnt are nominated for Best Gameplay. Lucas Pope's Papers, Please is the only game to be nominated in both the Most Innovative and Best Gameplay categories. Schell Games CEO Jesse Schell will...

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Games for Change boosted by Tribeca Film Festival link

For the first time, the Games for Change Festival is being attached to Tribeca, offering a much larger audience for its mission, to advocate for games with serious messages or with a strong charitable element.

According to Games for Change president Asi Burak, the deal to link up with the TFF marks a turning point for serious games. "We celebrated ten years in 2013," he told Polygon. "The first decade was all about advocacy of the genre and the movement, but now we are seeing more and more independent game creators express themselves around big issues."

Burak said that much good work had...

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