Blog: Amplify

Games for Change @ Council on Foundations’ Annual Conference

At the invitation of Grantmakers in Film + Electronic Media (GFEM) and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, Games for Change is part of the curatorial team introducing a new theme around games that will run throughout the Annual Conference of the Council on Foundations. CoF is a national non-profit, membership association whose members’ collective assets exceed $300 billion. The Conference attracts over 1,000. We see it as an important opportunity to showcase concrete examples of the manner in which games are supporting philanthropic investments and can be used effectively as critical tools in humanitarian and educational efforts.

The Games for Change program will take place April 29 and 30 and consist of:

Panel Discussions
Games for Social Innovation and Impact: A How-To and Exploratorium (with Games for Change Co-President Asi Burak; Jessica Goldfin, Special Assistant to the President, John S. & James L. Knight Foundation and Dan White, CEO, Filament Games) and Hands on Innovation: Game Theory and Mechanics for Social Impact (with Tracy Fullerton, Associate Professor, USC Interactive Media Division; Susana Ruiz, Co-Founder, Take Action Games and PhD Candidate, USC Media Arts + Practice; Benjamin Stokes, Researcher/PhD Student, USC Annenberg School for Communication)

Game Demo Sessions

A young girl racking up points with Zamzee

One-hour sessions comprised of brief presentations on various facets of a project – from production to its partnership model to evaluation – followed by Q&A.

Leading the Game Demo Sessions on Sunday, April 29 and Monday, April 30 will be:

Richard Tate, Vice President, Communications and Marketing, HopeLab on a whole new version of Re:Mission (developed specifically for adolescents and young adults with cancer)

Hilary Meserole, Chief Marketing Officer, Sojo Studios, on WeTopia (a Facebook game that allows players to spend a unique currency called “Joy” that spreads real-world aid to various non-profits assisting children around the world)

Elizabeth Swensen and Sean Bouchard, Research Associates, University of Southern California’s Game Innovation Lab, on Mission: Admission (a soon-to-be released Facebook game aimed to represent the systems essential to accessing higher education as well as provide a safe environment to learn and experiment with higher education strategies, such as time management and skill building)

Ron Goldman, Co-Founder and CEO of Kognito Interactive on Family of Heroes (an online role-playing training game designed to help families of returning veterans manage common challenges facing post-deployment life)

These projects represent a range of genres, subject matter and “theory of change” assumptions and have been financed by a diversity of backers, including: Pam Omidyar, Viviendi, Lance Armstrong Foundation, Annenberg Foundation and Veteran Affairs of NY/NJ.

Game Stations Featured in the Game Resource Area:

Collapsus by Submarine Channel

Featuring 9 game stations where funders can sample some of the best examples of games designed to maximize learning and social impact. Graciously serving as “game ambassadors” and assisting us in ensuring a user-friendly environment and experience for funders will be several USC Game Innovation Lab grad students.

From the environment to homelessness, civics through physics education, modestly-budgeted projects commissioned by non-profits to large-scale commercial efforts, there is an increasingly broad range of subjects and platforms which cause owners can consider in thinking about games as complements to other funding initiatives. Here are the projects selected for the hands-on play area:

Collapsus blends fictional “documentary” footage with mini-games and interactive storytelling, portraying the story of how the imminent energy transition affects ten young people in the future.

Fate of the World based on the research of Dr. Myles Allen at Oxford University, Fate of the World simulates the social and environmental impact of global climate change over the next 200 years. The science, the politics, the destruction – it’s all real, and it’s in the player’s hands to solve.

iCivics Founded by Justice Sandra Day O’Connor to reverse Americans’ declining civic knowledge and participation, iCivics currently offers 16 games that allow students to argue a Supreme Court case, run for President, and much more.

Portal 2 The award-winning sequel to the 2007 video game Portal, Portal 2 is a first-person puzzle-platform video game, which primarily compromises a series of challenges that must be solved by teleporting the player’s character and other simple objects using the “portal gun”. Many of the puzzles require different levels of understanding of physical laws and behaviors.

Sesame Street: Once Upon A Monster Play with your favorite Sesame Street characters on the Kinect platform in life lessons, including friendship, sharing and conquering fears.

SPENT an online game that challenges users to survive a roller-coaster month of harsh financial realities, looking for a job, managing a household, raising a child and more. Homelessness is sometimes one decision away.

Zamzee an online rewards program for young teens powered by their physical activity. The Zamzee meter, a three-axis accelerometer, records short bursts of movement and then connects to the computer via USB.

Also featured at stations will be Family of Heroes and Mission: Admission (described in Game Demo Sessions).

For an overview of the program and to register for the event:

Michelle Byrd is co-president at Games for Change.

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