Lower Manhattan in April becomes a place, for one day, where families throng in their hundreds and thousands, to look at entertainment provided by exhibitors at the Tribeca Film Festival. This year, there will be a new attraction.
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 been done by many individuals and organizations that helped increase "the public perception that this is something that is just like [TV and film] documentaries or non-fiction books." He said that more work needs to be done, and that game developers are taking up the challenge.
"In the past we saw those games being made by educators and non-profits," he said. "Now it's independent developers who who have a voice and want to say something." He cited games like Cart Life that looks at homelessness and Papers, Please, a game that offers powerful insights into how authoritarianism thrives.
"I feel like we are crossing the line into something that is more mainstream," he said. "When games are a part of something larger, like the Tribeca Film Festival, they can be very effective, and now we are a more public facing program because we are participating in the Family Day."
Games for Change is a series of lectures and workshops, due to be held from April 22-24, at the NYU Skirball Center for the Performing Arts. With the addition of the TFF Family Day, Games for Change will also be going out into the streets of Manhattan and demonstrating games, alongside other entertainment-focused exhibitors like Disney and ESPN.
Work being celebrated by Games for Change include Half The Sky Movement, a Facebook title played by more than 1.1 million people, which has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars to support women and girls around the world.
"Tribeca recognizes the transformative power of gaming that goes far beyond traditional entertainment value of games," said TFF's co-founder Craig Hatkoff. "The impact and integration has been spreading rapidly across virtually all domains. Of particular interest is how gaming for the social good has scaled, from education to health care from conflict resolution to religion. By partnering with Games for Change, we hope to bring together the most cutting-edge creators of games, educators, and the world's greatest storytellers."
The Games for Change Festival will host the fifth edition of The Annual Games for Change Awards. Award nominees are submitted by game developers and a jury selects recipients in categories like 'Most Significant Impact' and 'Most Innovative.'
Burak added that Games For Change needs the support of game players. "It's also on the game makers and the game players to be a bit more open," he added. "Our own community is sometimes almost uncomfortable with change. People say that Gone Home is not a game, as if it were a threat. In my eyes it's great that we are having new experiences and more people playing games on places like Facebook. It will support and expand games that go beyond entertainment."