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Laura Blum

Laura is a festival correspondent covering films and the festival circuit for She also publishes on Thalo



Games for Change Advocates Serious Fun

Think games are just kid's stuff? One glimpse at the braintrust headlining the Games for Change Festival, May 24 to 27, 2010, should reboot your mind. 

Not since Claudius Ceasar jumped into the gladiator ring have leaders and games so converged. 

Former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, U.S. Chief Technology Officer Aneesh Chopra and Army Brig. Gen. Loree K. Sutton, Director of the Defense Centers of Excellence for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury, are but three of the eminences gathering in New York City to consider how computer and video games can advance education, health and social issues.

Enlightenment will also beam in from media mavens, including Law and Order: SVU Executive Producer Neal Baer, digital pioneer Alan Kay and online humorist Ze Frank.

The brainchild of Games for Change, a non-profit that uses digital games to take on such issues as poverty, education, human rights, global conflict and climate change, the Festival is known as "the Sundance of video games" for the socially-responsible set.

In its seventh iteration, G4C is taking an extra day – expanding from three to four – to study the alchemy that turns gaming into educational gold. On May 27 it will debut a "Research and Design Innovation Day" to consider game mechanics and methods for studying engagement, among other aspects of game-based learning. Co-presented with the Games for Learning Institute, a joint research forum of eight universities and Microsoft Research, the day will be held at New York University's Courant Institute of Mathema-tical Sciences. (The first three days of G4C will take place at Parsons The New School for Design.)

Also to be presented for the first time is a workshop entitled “The Power of Design: Youth Making Social Issue Games.”  Game designers, educators and foundations are among those expected to attend this day-long confab exploring games as stealth curricula. Items on the agenda include how students can play their way to mastering science, technology, engineering and math and to rallying for progressive causes.

An estimated 97% of teens engage in digital games, a vital stat behind this initiative which also seeks to involve youth in designing their own social impact games.

G4C will once again present a "Games Expo," where participants can roll up their sleeves and do some playing, themselves. Brainstorming sessions, funders' meetings, press scrums and demos will round out the Festival program.

As in the past two years, Festival curtains will rise with the "101.5 Workshop." This in-demand forum is tailored to non-profits seeking to publish social issue games.

Let the games begin.


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