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Games for Change (G4C) provides support, visibility and shared resources to organizations and individuals using digital games for social change. This is the primary community of practice for those interested in making digital games about the most pressing issues of our day, from poverty to race and the environment. We are the social change/social issues branch of the Serious Games Initiative.


Project Manager Opening

Posted by Phoebe_Reed on 11-15-07

Games for Change is seeking a Project Manager for its Prototyping, Evaluation, Teaching and
Learning lab (PETLab) – a joint initiative with Parsons The New School for Design.  PETLab
develops new games, simulations, and play experiences which encourage experimental learning
and investigation into social and global issues.  It is a place for testing prototyping methods and
the process of collaborative design with organizations interested in using games as a form of
public interest engagement… Download full job description


G4C is Growing - Seeking Online Community Manager

Posted by Phoebe_Reed on 09-24-07

Games for Change is expanding in a number of new directions, including management of an online social network dedicated to the field of digital media and learning.  We are currently looking for an Online Community Manager to join our team.  The Community Manager will help us craft a vision and oversee the editorial strategy for this social network that serves researchers, academics, media producers, policy makers, educators, and the public.  (See PDF job description)


Summary of G4C 07 Festival Panels

Posted by Phoebe_Reed on 06-14-07

Images, audio, video, transcripts, and blogged opinions of Games For Change’s 4th Annual Festival are on the web for those who missed the event (or who just want to re-live some of the interesting conversations and energy).  A round-up of the two days of conversation and panels can be found here.


G4C and Microsoft announce Xbox Partnership

Posted by Phoebe_Reed on 06-12-07

Check out the Xbox 360 Games for Change Challenge at:


Twitter and notes from the G4C Festival

Posted by Phoebe_Reed on 06-11-07

The Games for Change Annual Festival June 11 and 12th.

Check ou Ian Bogost’s live blog from the fesitval

Twitter from the festival at


Register for the Festival

Posted by Phoebe_Reed on 04-13-07

Registration open for the 2007 G4C 4th Annual Festival! Keynotes are announced and you’ll find featured sessions and a great line-up of speakers here.

Submit your Game for Awards consideration here.

Recommend a game you like here.


Vote for Us!

Posted by Phoebe_Reed on 04-09-07

Please vote for Games for Change here to help us get funding from the NetSquared Innovation Fund.  20 projects from the 150 submitted will get funding based on who gets the most votes.  So we need your help!


G4C June 2007 Festival Announcement & Call for Proposals

Posted by Phoebe_Reed on 03-14-07

We are pleased to announce that the Games for Change 4th Annual Festival will be held on June 11th and 12th at Parsons the New School for Design in New York City. 

We are currently accepting proposals now until March 15th.
We’d like to receive from our community not only concrete proposal submissions, but we also welcome feedback on the kinds of subject matter you’d like to hear about.  Please send proposals to: with “2007 G4C Festival proposal” in the subject header by March 15.  We look forward to hearing from you!

For submitting a proposal, please include the following as guidelines

1. Proposed title of session
2. Name, phone and email of primary contact for this proposal
3. Names, affiliations and titles of panelists and moderator
4. Preferred length of slot: 30, 45, 60 mins
5. Brief description of session
6. 3 Take-aways
7. Bios of all proposed participants
8. Intended audience: Beginner, Intermediate, Advanced
9. Any additional information?

Session Criteria

  • Importance/relevance to the emerging field of social change/social issue games
  • Expertise/experience of panelists - ability to communicate ideas effectively
  • Thought-provoking/discussion - worthy subject matter (Making “statements” is less interesting than fostering discussion across multiple viewpoints)
  • New approach or new content - (different from last year or what you’ve seen at other conferences)

For reference, here is a link to last year’s program:


NYC Salon: Ethics and Values in Games

Posted by Benjamin Stokes on 01-14-07

imageOn January 9th an evening salon was held in NYC at Parsons the New School for Design in conjunction with G4C and the NYC Games Scholars.  The program included:

Jesper Juul (Assistant Professor, Centre for Computer Game Research Copenhagen; Visiting Scholar, The New School) on The Problem with Games and Players and the Rest of the World: What happens when a player picks up a game? What is the boundary between what is in the game and what is outside the game? Does fiction or rules matter?
Helen Nissenbaum (Associate Professor in the Department of Culture and Communication and Faculty Associate of the Information Law Institute at NYU) on Values-at-Play: A Methodology for Bringing Values into the Design of Games

Demos were featured by Mark Grob—DWI Learning Experience/Game; Lance Vikaros, Teachers College—Global Warming Interactive (produced by Michael Hillinger); Michael Edwards, The New School—Inspector Carbone

NETWORK HOUR EXHIBITORS: Robert Steele and Kim Blozie—Earth Intelligence Network; Matt Slaybaugh—Go Rabbit, Go!

Continue reading the rest of this post.

Podcasts Released from our June 2006 Conference/Festival

Posted by Benjamin Stokes on 12-01-06

imageWe're releasing our podcasts. The sound quality is a bit imperfect, but our speakers shine. There are two ways to browse the content:
  1. View podcasts with descriptions
  2. View just filenames (same as "continue reading" below)
While audio recordings are never as powerful as being there in person, and there's none of the powerful networking, we still hope these will make the community's knowledge more broadly accessible.

Continue reading the rest of this post.

We’re Growing—Seeking Exec. Director, Social Network Manager, National Events Planner

Posted by Benjamin Stokes on 11-22-06

Games for Change is growing! We're expanding our work with Parsons the New School for Design and the MacArthur Foundation, in addition to grants received over the past six months from Surdna, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. As part of our restructuring, Suzanne Seggerman will be assuming the role of President beginning in January; transition details for Benjamin Stokes are forthcoming; beginning today we are recruiting for:
  • Executive Director: seeking a social change innovator and experienced program manager to lead a team of five people as the organization expands to a solid yet flexible institution at the forefront of a new form of media in the public interest. (See PDF job description.)
  • Online Social Network Manager-Designer: Oversee the development and operation of an innovative online Knowledge Network. (See PDF job description.)
  • National Event Planner (as staff or consultant): Oversee planning for all events over an intense eight-month period, including our annual Festival, with the opportunity to help grow new events for future years. (See PDF job description.)


G4C at two Festivals: Margaret Mead and Sundance

Posted by Benjamin Stokes on 11-06-06

Games for Change is happy to announce we’ll be featured at two upcoming film festivals…

imageThe first is this weekend in NYC at the Margaret Mead International Film and Video Festival, the longest-running showcase for international documentaries in the United States. The Festival is distinguished by its outstanding selection of titles, which tackle diverse and challenging subjects, representing a range of issues and perspectives, and by the forums for discussion with filmmakers and speakers.  This is its 30th anniversary!

Our panel at Margaret Mead will take place in the Linder Theatre at the Natural History Museum from 3:45-5:45pm on November 11th.  For parents, consider taking your kids to a documentary before or after, and then to this panel on games.  The games we’ll feature include: Ayiti: the Cost of Life, a game allowing the player to assume the role of various family members living in rural Haiti; Darfur is Dying, a game which attempts to put the player in the shoes of one of the 2.5 million refugees who are fighting for survival in the Darfur region of Sudan; A Force More Powerful, a simulation which helps to train activists in techniques for peaceful resistance to oppression; and Tropical America, a game bringing the real-world terrors of investigating secret violence in the Americas.

imageNext up: we will also be featured at the Sundance Film Festival in Park City Utah in January 2007 - more details to follow. 


MacArthur Foundation to work with G4C on Events, Knowledge Network, Games Research

Posted by Benjamin Stokes on 10-05-06

G4C is happy to announce that we are the project lead on a $250K grant from the MacArthur Foundation made to the Digital Innovations Group (DIG).  As part of MacArthur’s new Digital Media and Learning initiative we will be working on three projects.  The first is an online Knowledge Network for the national coordination of resources and community leadership; the second is a series of offline events to connect with policymakers, practitioners and the general public; and the third is research assessing the emerging field of digital games and social change.  The official grant recipient, DIG, is G4C’s fiscal sponsor.  Some additional details are available on the MacArthur site here.


How to Get Involved

Posted by Benjamin Stokes on 07-24-06

Heard about Games for Change and wondering how you can get involved or stay informed about our efforts? A few ideas: try joining our email discussion list. What are we talking about these days? Check out our conference program, see the links proposed by conference attendees, or read more about us.


Conference Press

Posted by Benjamin Stokes on 07-23-06

imageRecent press from our 2006 conference includes:

Continue reading the rest of this post.

Annual Conference in June, 2006

Posted by Benjamin Stokes on 05-08-06

Visit the conference website:

Registration is now live for our 2006 conference on "Social Change and Digital Games." The 3rd annual event will be co-hosted June 27th and 28th with the New School in New York City's Greenwich Village. Registration fees will increase after May 24th.

This event is the annual gathering for the exciting new movement using digital games to address the most pressing issues of our day. At the conference, expert practitioners -- academics, activists, non-profits -- will be called in to examine the impact of current games and preliminary and crucial work of building the field. Keynotes include Bob Kerrey, The New School President and former Senator from Nebraska, and best-selling author Steven Johnson of "Everything Bad Is Good For You." A showcase of the latest social change games will be open to the media at the Games Expo. Panel topics include Games for Global Peace, Creating a PBS for Games, Academic Evaluation Efforts, Recent Funding Initiatives, Health and Environmental Awareness Campaigns, and Guerrilla Nonprofit Games.

Continue reading the rest of this post.

Outcomes from GDC

Posted by Benjamin Stokes on 03-22-06

While the GDC will continue through Friday, the Serious Games portion is complete. Here's a quick report with links to press received, an audio podcast of our panel, and photos from our "birds of a feather" session:

1. Press the article on our GDC panel by GameSpot (and even if GameSpot implies otherwise, Suzanne does know who made hidden agenda-- Jim Gasperini!)
2. Listen to the audio recording (zipped mp3) of the same panel.
3. Check out our photos:

G4C co-director Suzanne Seggerman addresses the main hall for the Serious Games Summit at GDC; fellow panelists Katie Salen, Carl Goodman and Lucy Bernholz (from left to right)

G4C board member Ian Bogost presents on Political/Activism Gaming

A sampling of some of the many folks attending the "birds-of-a-feather" gathering sponsored by G4C.


Two conferences: March 20 (GDC/San Jose) & March 24 (N-TEN/Seattle)

Posted by Benjamin Stokes on 03-07-06

UPDATED: photos, audio recordings, and press hits from the conferences are available if you 'read more' at the end of this post...

G4C will be at both the Game Developers Conference and the Nonprofit Technology Conference in late March:
  1. GDC/San Jose Gathering: Meet-Up for Games for Change community. This birds-of-a-feather session will be hosted by the directors of Games for Change. Objectives are to plan out our upcoming national conference, network and share resources with our rapidly growing community. Monday, March 20, 1-1:50pm
  2. GDC/San Jose Panel: Mass Audience Issues for Serious Games. As nearly the first panel in the two-day Summit on Serious Games that preceds the official GDC, we're gathering a high-profile crew that includes a funder's perspective (Connie Yowell/MacArthur Foundation), a museum perspective (Carl Goodman/Museum of the Moving Image), and one designer/academic (Katie Salen/Parsons School of Design). Moderated by G4C's own Suzanne Seggerman, the panel will explore how social change games require extra focus on our ability to reach game audiences that the industry has been unable to reach. This session answers key questions, such as: can we look at the elements other media have used when branching into new areas, such as documentary film or educational TV? Monday, March 20, 10:15-11:15am
  3. N-TEN/Seattle At a panel of the Nonprofit Technology Conference, G4C will present on Storytelling Strategies for Digital Communications using digital games alongside the creators of the Meatrix and Store Wars. Friday, March 24, 1:30-3pm
We hope to see you there!

Continue reading the rest of this post.

Reporting Back: Panel at Annual Serious Games Summit in DC

Posted by Benjamin Stokes on 02-22-06

We now have the full audio (MP3) from the November '05 panel that G4C hosted at the Serious Games Summit titled "Theory of Change: The Making of Good Social Issue Games." Overview: Many proponents of serious games believe they can affect positive social change, but to claim success, one must be able to evaluate impact. Business owners, foundations and nonprofits often use a "theory of change" (TOC) to articulate what's behind their social change design. Thus, a special focus of the panel will be discussing how TOC principals can form the basis of successful non-profit game design. The panel consider several TOC approaches through the perspectives of varied panelists. (More detail is available on the panel's description on the Summit site.) Speakers included:
  • Moderator: Mario Armstrong (National Public Radio)
  • Suzanne Seggerman (Games for Change)
  • Benjamin Stokes (Games for Change, NetAid)
  • Barry Joseph (Global Kids)
  • Catherine Herdlick (gameLab)


Call out for feedback

Posted by Benjamin Stokes on 11-08-05

We're now gathering all articles, photos and quotes! Send what you've got to our conference email address ( All conference attendees should receive our survey via email by Wednesday, November 15th -- let us know if you haven't seen this yet!

General update: We're regrouping, post-conference, and doing a bunch of assessment. Soon we'll start sharing some of the results and articles from the survey and beyond! Stay tuned...


Registration Open for our 2005 Conference!

Posted by Benjamin Stokes on 09-14-05

Games for Change Annual ConferenceClick on the logo at left to find out the details and register today for our 2005 national conference on Social Change through Digital Games.
We invite designers, nonprofits, academics, foundations, government offices, artists and more to attend for two fantastic days of networking, learning and collaboration. Save $50 if you register before September 30th...


Article Published: Overview of Serious Games for Global Educators

Posted by Benjamin Stokes on 08-23-05

The UK-published Development Education Journal recently asked one of our co-founders to write a theme article on "Games and Global Education" for their June 2005 edition. We’re now pleased to offer the article online. Two aspects may interest readers here: (1) the overview of digital games for those doing civic education, (2) advice on collaboration to increase impact for the Serious Games sector. A PDF of the article can be downloaded at the top of the following URL:

At a larger level, traditional journals are clearly beginning to take games seriously. In this case, the flagship publication of a leading global education journal considered digital games worth recruiting for its special issue on technology in education. The article itself is largely a product of the Serious Games community: it was authored by G4C co-founder Benjamin Stokes and acknowledgements also go out to Dave Rejeski (G4C co-founder) and David Williamson Shaffer (UW-Madison).


Salon Report on “Behind the Scenes of The UN WFP’s Food Force” (#4, July 20th)

Posted by Benjamin Stokes on 07-24-05

This salon’s photos and audio are available online.

Who says games are not serious? This month’s Games for Change Salon took a peek at The United Nations World Food Program’s (WFP) FoodForce Game. We welcomed Trevor Rowe, North American Spokesperson for the World Food Program’s (who discussed the game and its impact in promoting awareness of the WFP and hunger worldwide.

Suzanne Seggerman of WebLab welcomed the large group in attendance with a special thank you to the Fund for the City of New York, who generously hosted the event. The WFP FoodForce Game initiative is of particular interest to Games for Change as we draw our members from over 20 countries and because poverty is one of the most significant social issues of our time. 

According to Mr. Rowe, unlike most UN agencies, WFP does most of its work in the field. The WFP is the world’s largest humanitarian agency, supports 82 countries and fed over 100 million people last year alone! Hunger remains the #1 health threat around the world, and more die each year due to hunger than malaria tuberculosis and HIV/Aids combined. And yet Mr. Rowe commented: “hunger remains a difficult issue for people to focus on.”

Mr. Rowe cited a number of challenges facing the WFP in promoting awareness of hunger. How can the WFP promote awareness without provoking guilt or leaving people feeling affronted or offended? Can they develop support for action above and beyond awareness? The WFP also had a goal of creating a more long-term constituency among youth ages 9-13. And finally, the WFP wanted to make the game as real as possible to expose players to the real decisions and experiences the WFP encounters.

The solution for the WFP involved an active game experience where the real problems facing the WFP on a daily basis are solved. The series of steps in the game included a) an assessment of resources and funding required; b) a view into the hard choices the agency makes with balancing nutrition/diet against supplies; c) the logistics of air dropping food; d) the challenge of delivering food across rough and hostile terrain; and e) a review of the long-term initiatives that the WFP undertakes to not just feed, but rehabilitate the countries through rebuilding roads and schools, replanting, etc.

The result was very successful with 1 million downloads in its first 10 weeks following launch. The FoodForce Game game was also the #1 download on Apple’s website for the first 2 weeks, and in total has been downloaded by 1.5 to 2 million people. The future plans for the FoodForce Game game include promoting its use in schools and releasing it in other languages.

Benjamin Stokes of NetAid demonstrated the game and highlighted its success despite the large download size (220MB), commenting that non-profits should look at downloading as an alternate (and inexpensive) method of distribution. Mr. Stokes also commented on the use of a “Trust Network” to distribute the game. “You have to play it to understand it,” Mr. Stokes noted in comparing the cinematic elements of the game to the interactive components. He noted how the game mixed expository information into the actual game play, reinforcing the message the WFP intended to get across, and that game play was very easy to pick up, with instructions lasting only 5 to 10 seconds.

During the Q&A section, one person suggested tying the game into real-time hunger/health data provided by Bloomberg. The game reportedly cost several hundred thousand dollars to produce. According to Mr. Rowe, the large audience was in part due to very solid PR efforts, and that the national debate regarding video game usage and a natural interest on the part of the media fed the publicity.

When asked about establishing a deeper moral connection with its users beyond just awareness, Mr. Rowe commented: “It’s difficult to establish a moral connection - however you do create a certain level of understanding and empathy for the process of solving this particular problem - there are not just a lot of faceless people out there that are hungry. You’ll walk away knowing that you can do something about it, because you’ve done it. And so the next time someone says you can’t do something about hunger, you’re going to say ‘well, maybe you can.’”

Benjamin Stokes distributed an article that he authored on Serious Games that explores: “three educational opportunities in games - raising public awareness, affecting behavior and empowering learners – and discusses collaborative ways to move the agenda forward.” The article is slated to appear in the June 2005 edition of The Development Education Journal .

Barry Joseph of GlobalKids announced new support from Microsoft for a new initiative. According to Mr. Joseph, the “After School Games Program” will “work with students after school to teach them not only GlobalKids leadership skills but also game design skills. Learn how to combine the two together. And we’ll be working closely with GameLab to produce the game with the students each year.”

Thanks to those who attended, to Mr. Trevor Rowe for his presentation on the WFP’s FoodForce Game and to The Fund for the City of New York for hosting the event.

Reminder to all about the upcoming Games for Change Conference scheduled for October 21st/22nd in New York.


Please join us for our next Salon on Wednesday, July 20th!

Posted by Benjamin Stokes on 07-11-05

The Games for Change Summer Salon:
Behind the Scenes of The UN’s Food Force

- Meet the UN World Food Programme’s North America spokesman.
- Learn how they made their game and what they hope to accomplish.
- Discover how a game about air dropping food rations reached over 1,000,000 players within two months.
- Introduce yourself to others in the G4C community.
- Enjoy the drinks, light fare and networking opportunities.
- Show your own game during the cocktail hour.

Wednesday, July 20
6 - 8pm
Fund for the City of NY
121 Avenue of the Americas (@ Broome Street) 6th Floor (for directions:
As sponsored by the Fund for the City of New York, the Games 4 Change salons are always free to attend.

RSVP (requested not required) to so we have enough food and drink.  Thanks.

Games for Change is a non-profit organization working to bring together non-profits and their partners in industry, academia and the arts, to explore the use of digital games for social change.  G4C is an off-shoot of the Serious Games Initiative, which is focused on uses for games in exploring management and leadership challenges facing the public sector. 

Please feel free to forward this announcement to other people and lists you think would be interested.


Reporting Back: at Madison for the GLS Conference / June 23-24

Posted by Benjamin Stokes on 06-25-05

As described earlier, we hosted a luncheon this past week on the topic of "facilitating multi-sector partnerships around research, publicity and game development" at the GLS Conference in Madison, Wisconsin. The conference drew more than 300 attendees for a fantastic and diverse look into learning and digital games.

The luncheon was attended by foundations, reporters, game designers, teachers, nonprofits, researchers and others. More than four discussion tables tackled how collaboration between fields can overcome mutual challenges. Moderated by Benjamin Stokes, the event built on G4C's earlier presence at GDC and E3 to expand our fledgling community.

A nice bonus was a front-page article mentioning Games For Change in the Wisconsin State Journal which described our work in "bringing together nonprofits and others across the country to develop games that create awareness and action on social problems ranging from hunger to AIDS" (too bad they didn't mention G4C's name!).


Join us in Madison for the GLS Conference / June 23-24

Posted by Benjamin Stokes on 06-20-05

We're hosting a luncheon on the opening day of the GLS Conference in Madison on June 23rd. The focus will be on how G4C can facilitate multi-sector partnerships around research, publicity and game development. The session will be moderated by Benjamin Stokes of NetAid. Benjamin will also be presenting a workshop on intersections between Games and Service Learning.


Our Party at the Education Arcade—and Next Salon Preview

Posted by Benjamin Stokes on 05-20-05

Suaznne just wanted to drop in and give you all an update on G4C’s recent events:

First, welcome to the many new members who’ve just joined after our various West Coast activities - we now have members in almost 20 countries (welcome Finland and Taiwan - our newest additions!) and almost all 50 states (hello Hawaii!)

Our most recent event was Monday night’s Education Arcade party, an information session and social hour at the poolside bar of the Figueroa Hotel, a block from the Education Arcade. Co-hosted by G4C, Serious Games and our new LA coordinator, Celia Pearce, it was a great evening. Barry Joseph and I, G4C co-founders, spoke about G4C activities, Celia spoke about the Buckminster Fuller Insititute’s game project Spaceship Earth, and Ben Sawyer filled us in on Serious Games activities. There were at least 60 people there throughout the evening, and we welcomed visits from people who have been inspiring us with their work and vision over the years (Brenda Laurel, Henry Jenkins and others.) No camera, alas. And if you’d like to be involved in the LA group, please email:

Last week in LA, Celia Pearce oversaw a game design charette for the Buckminster Fuller Institute’s game, Spaceship Earth, a social issue game project that is inspired by Bucky Fuller’s World Game. There were 20 people involved from various fields related to games, technology and earth issues in the charette and we welcome them onto the list as well.

July 20th is our next Salon in NYC - it will be ”new members night“ where everyone present will have a chance to speak for a few minutes about who they are and what they are working on, as well as we will feature a brief social issues/non-profit game presentation - details forthcoming. Please join us if you can.

Best wishes at the onset of summer!


Salon Report on “Games in Culture” (#3, May 4th)

Posted by Benjamin Stokes on 05-15-05

[check out photos and audio of the event]

On May 4th, Games For Change met for its third Salon in NYC (more are pending in the Bay Area and beyond).  The panel session, titled “Games in Culture,” was developed and moderated by game designer and author Eric Zimmerman, Founder and CEO of GameLab.

The theme of the presentations and discussion centered on the unique status that games have on our culture, and how games can be used for social change.

Mr. Zimmerman opened the evening’s presentation with a recap of the previous salons and their agendas (the 1st focused on funding and the 2nd on case studies and design and production issues).  In this Salon, Mr. Zimmerman aimed to expand the conversation by rethinking games and social change—to think in the largest sense about how to approach new solutions and strategies.  To that end he assembled a great panel who were each asked to discuss a game or type of game in this context.

Mr. McKenzie Wark, author of the Hacker Manifesto and New School Media Studies Professor, presented what he termed a “cautionary tale” in discussing the Sims and how a sizeable amount of players have been able to “reverse engineer” aspects of the game.  As demonstrated through the Sims fan site message boards and images, players have been able to use the underlying algorithm and the game’s inherent ability to add objects to actually introduce elements of social change into their virtual communities. One of the most striking examples Mr. McKenzie presented was how players have learned that using a family album feature of the game has allowed them to introduce narrative elements into the game. The cautionary aspect of Mr. McKenzie’s presentation was that if the game design allows for player input and modifications—rest assured that they will modify it in ways you may not expect. Mr. McKenzie presented a few posts from a Sims users’ “Wish List” message board and nearly all were requests for more vice.

The next speaker was Carol Stakenas, Program Officer at the International Center for Tolerance Education.  Ms. Stakenas spoke of the University of Minnesota’s “Big Urban Game” (BUG), which took place in the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul. In this game, teams of players moved giant game pieces (they looked remarkably like giant Sorry! pieces) around the city.  The public participated by voting online on the path the teams should take through the city. Ms. Stakenas was impressed by how the play of the game brought the pieces through a variety of landscapes—how it not only turned the cities into a giant game board, but how in the process it highlighted economy, class, infrastructure and rights issues.  She also made a point of differentiating BUG from somewhat similar ideas such as PacManhattan and Can You See Me Now?—the latter two being games where the technology needed to participated narrowed the amount of people who could be included.

Karen Sideman, Game Designer and former creative Director of Sesame Workshop Online, gave a presentation that fit nicely with the previous two, by focusing on online communities that have taken on a life of their own.  The most fascinating case Ms. Sideman presented was about Nation States. What initially had been a promotional tool for a book by author Max Barry was, in essence, taken over by its community of users.  The community established its own set of rules, and the community keeps growing, with fans even building a Nation States Wikipedia.

A lively discussion between panelists and attendees followed, the general topic being that game developers can often not determine what player behaviors will be until the behaviors start to emerge.  In the case of the Sims, we learned that players were not satisfied with a certain lack of narrative and social issues, and so they took it upon themselves to change this.  In the same manner, users of Nation States collectively decided they too felt constrained, and again took matters into their own hands.

[check out photos and audio]


Join us for our next Salon on Wednesday, May 4!

Posted by Benjamin Stokes on 04-21-05

Games For Change Salon Series
3rd Feature: Games in Culture
6-8pm on Wednesday, May 4, 2005
Fund for the City of New York
121 6th Avenue @ Broome Street
6th floor

** Games For Change brings together non-profits and their partners to explore the use of digital games to advance organizational mission and societal change.

This bi-monthly discussion series brings together key individuals and organizations interested in discussing the use of digital games to achieve non-profit missions. The focus for each evening will be a presentation or discussion with several noteworthy speakers followed by a lively social hour.

May 4. Moderated by game designer and author Eric Zimmerman, this panel will explore the cultural and social aspects of games in our society. The discussion will center on the unique status of games within culture, the ways that games are similar to and different than other forms of media, entertainment, and popular culture, and what all of this has to say about how games can be used for social change.

- McKenzie Wark, New School media studies professor
- Karen Sideman, Game designer & former Creative Director at Sesame Workshop Online
- Carol Stakenas, Program Officer, International Center for Tolerance Education

Please feel free to forward this announcement to other people and lists you think would be interested.


Second Games for Change Salon a hit (March 29)

Posted by Benjamin Stokes on 04-21-05

[check out photos and audio of the event]

The second Games for Change salon was held on March 29th at the offices of the Fund for the City of New York, which has been kind enough to donate their time, space and equipment to Games for Change.

Guests came from universities, non-profits, and game development companies - many from the city, but also from Massachusetts and Maryland, showing the growing interest in this topic. Everyone enjoyed snacks and beverages in a great lobby space before the meeting proper. Barry Joseph in particular noted the high quality of the rugelah provided. Barry and Suzanne Seggerman greeted the guests and gave brief overviews of the organization’s mission and their recent trip to San Francisco for the Game Developer’s Conference.

The presentations got off to a great start with Mary McCormick, director of the Fund for the City of New York. Ms. McCormick highlighted a number of the Fund’s programs and reiterated her support of serious games. She demonstrated some remarkable work - Flash versions of children’s storybooks that are interactive, and have been made so that they can be viewed in English and Spanish, and more languages to come. The work is done all in-house by a group of dedicated students, interns, and employees.

Benjamin Stokes of NetAid was next with a case study of their “Peter Packet” game and Challenge, which aimed to educate and involve middle school players in the fight against global poverty.  Mr. Stokes remarked that young people not only found the game appealing, but that players also many participated in the game’s real-world Challenge to raise awareness. In the Challenge, players earned points by sending emails to friends and family that encouraged dialog, participation and donations. NetAid is building on the success and lessons learned from Peter Packet as it develops a new “World Council” game, which we look forward to hearing more about.

Following Benjamin Stokes was Alex Kopelman of Girls Inc. to give a case study. Mr. Kopelman noted that Girls Inc. was looking for an online game for their site to create stickiness on the site, as well as provide educational content and meet user demand. Together with Large Animal Games (Wade Tinney of this game development company was also in attendance), Girls Inc. has developed a very popular game that emphasizes teamwork. There were a few remarkable statistics for this game - over 75000 people have played online, and 35, 000 have downloaded it. When users download and unlock the full game, they are given the ability to design and add their own levels, which can be uploaded to to a server for others to play. What was really amazing about this is that over 1200 levels have been user created. A great presentation with lots of food for thought.

A formal question and answer session was held following the presentation, with issues such as COPPA regulations and everyone’s favorite, development costs, being the most discussed. This was followed by a good 1/2 hour or so of socializing. This Salon added a new element - guests were invited to demo work they had done - lots of great ideas were shown and exchanged. It is to be hoped that we will have more of this in future Salons. Thank you to everyone who participated and attended, and especially to our gracious and generous hosts, Mary McCormick and Aldrin Bonilla of the Fund for the City of New York.

[check out photos and audio of the event]


Mention in The Nation’s weblog

Posted by Benjamin Stokes on 04-05-05

We're pleased to see the editor of The Nation magazine highlight the G4C community in the last paragraph of her weblog, Editor's Cut ( The article also features quotes by co-founder Dave Rejeski and game examples featured in some of our recent discussions.


Success at GDC and in San Francisco

Posted by Benjamin Stokes on 03-25-05

Following two days of events in San Francisco, Games For Change (G4C) organizers believe they may have reached a new tipping point in activity and external interest. A new Bay Area chapter has emerged, volunteer groups are cohering around specific projects, and new partners are directly approaching the group. The recent San Francisco events, held in and around the Moscone Center on March 7th and 8th, occurred both independently and within the Serious Games Summit (~500 attendees) as part of the larger Game Developers Conference (~10,000 attendees).

The G4C group's activities in San Francisco show the interest the group is garnering in the larger Serious Games community. On Monday March 7th, the Serious Games Summit started and included Suzanne Seggerman and Barry Joseph (Global Kids) leading a G4C luncheon meeting. Attended by over sixty people, the working luncheon introduced conference participants to the mission and work of G4C. One outcome was a list of key challenges that will need to be addressed to develop nonprofit serious games (to be posted shortly).

That same day, at the invitation of the conference organizers, G4C convened a roundtable discussion on "How Games Benefit the Public-At-Large." Moderated by Benjamin Stokes (NetAid), the 40-person group sought to integrate the perspectives of game developers with their partners to brainstorm untapped opportunities for serious games that might benefit the public good (results to be posted shortly).

By contrast, the G4C event on Tuesday night was open-invite beyond the conference and served as the first West Coast Information Session. Over 35 people attended, from D.C., New York, several Midwest states, Washington and, of course, California. Participants developed topics for the upcoming conference, discussed how to improve the online community, and debated member projects long into the night. Hors d'oeuvres were served.

The launch of a new Bay Area chapter of G4C was one vital outcome of recruiting at the Tuesday night event. The chapter's steering committee of five will be led by Doug Nelson of Kinection. Their activities, including West Coast Salons, will greatly add to the larger G4C community both on and offline.

The three San Francisco events detailed above help show how much G4C has accomplished in the past year. At the start of 2004, G4C was born via conference calls that led to a conference in June. Today G4C runs its own website, independent listserv, bi-monthly salon series and national conference focusing on social issues and nonprofit partnerships. Volunteer groups have already formed and are working to organize the upcoming conference, a series of case studies and future salons. Volunteers are also working to start up chapters in Los Angeles and Washington, D.C.


Join us at these March events

Posted by Benjamin Stokes on 02-16-05

Lunch as part of SG-GDC (March 7th): At the Serious Games Preconference to GDC in San Francisco. Come learn more about what we have achieved in the past year, network with other practitioners, and learn what GFC can mean for you and your work. Co-moderated by Suzanne Seggerman, coordinator of GFC, and Barry Joseph, director of Global Kids' Online Leadership Program. Lunch provided on a first come, first serve basis. Note that you must register for the pre-conference to attend.

Bay Area Happy Hour Information & Networking Session (March 8th): Want to connect to the Games4Change movement in the Bay Area? Come to this free event (not connected to the conference). We're going to host an information and networking session on Tuesday evening, March 8th. The first half hour will be for beginners only, and then we'll kick off an open session for all. However, momentum in the Bay Area will ONLY happen with volunteers helping bring in NGOs, game developers, academics, etc. Can you think how we might get the right NGOs to attend? Or who we should talk to? Would you like to attend? Contact Benjamin Stokes at 212 537 0520 and we'll let you know the specifics.

Evening Salon Discussion Featuring Two Case Studies (March 29th): We'll try to give everyone a sense of how our emerging sector already operates by contrasting two very different game business models and desired outcomes. Alexander Kopelman of Girls Incorporated will present TeamUp and Benjamin Stokes of NetAid will present Peter Packet. A discussion will follow. These two case studies are part of a larger initiative by Games For Change to publish case studies of relevant games to our membership. To attend, email Suzanne Seggerman for details.


Games For Change mentioned in NYC Council Hearing

Posted by Benjamin Stokes on 02-14-05

Today, the City Council’s Committee on Technology in Government held a public hearing: “Oversight: Improving Participatory Democracy Through Municipal Cable Television.” You might wonder what this might have to do with online games?

Well, one of the main questions pertained to the stations’ websites and how they could be used to engage and inform the public. One of GFC’s founders, Barry Joseph from Global Kids, was invited to present. He spoke about a number of areas, such as online dialogues, but addressed games and our movement as well.

The following is from his spoken testimony:

    For three years, Global Kids has been exploring what has come to be called, “Serious Games,” the use of online games as a tool for more than just entertainment. More specifically, we have been a leader with other like-minded non-profits in New York City interested in using online games as a tool for achieving our social mission. This emerging organization, recently named Games for Change, held its first conference last year and has recently begun a bi-monthly salon series for non-profits and their partners.

    Why games? According to The Entertainment Software Association, half of all Americans play computer and video games, with women making up the second largest group of gamers. Games are steadily becoming a dominant way that people spend their leisure time, often stealing time away from traditional media, like television.

    But games need not be simply for fun. Global Kids is currently developing two separate games as a way to reach youth. One, the Profiler, will be what is known as a casual game, a fast, action-packed game that will educate its players about airport profiling in a post-9.11 world. The second, the Public Policy Slam, will be what is known as a massively-multiplayer online game, engaging and informing youth around the country about significant public policy issues.

    Gotham Gazette has been a leader in developing inexpensive, civic-oriented games. Here are a few recent examples. The descriptions are taken from their website.

    * The New York City Budget Game:  In an effort to close the city’s $3.8 billion deficit, public officials have been playing the usual budget games - laying off workers, raising taxes, and threatening to close firehouses and zoos. Now with our interactive NYC Budget Game, you can play too. You spend the money. You make the cuts. You raise and lower the taxes.

    * Plan Your Future Park Our newest interactive game lets you plan your own park, making choices that communities all over the city have been facing.

    * Breakdown New Yorkers rarely think about the systems that keep the city running, until something breaks down. Now, you can take a system-by-system look at what keeps us wired, watered, and flushed: play Breakdown!, our newest interactive game, and use your knowledge to save the city from kaput.


    Integrate “serious games” into the Council 51 website as a way to attract new users to the site while educating them about important civic issues.


    First salon a success (including pictures!)

    Posted by Benjamin Stokes on 01-13-05

    The results are in: our first Salon, held two days ago, was a success. Highlights include:
    • 50 attendees from all over, both near (NYC) and far (Boston, St. Paul, Miami, & Los Angels). Many arrived early and stayed late; maybe it was the great food? Grin.
    • Diverse backgrounds: mostly nonprofits, with a good blend of industry, academia, artists, media and consultants.
    • The speakers were fantastic - inspiring and practical.
      Franklin Madison, Jr., the Technology Program Director at the Industrial and Technology Assistance Corporation, opened the presentations by discussing various avenues for securing funding from Federal agencies.
      Kevin Duggan, an independent consultant specializing in planning and development for individual artists and nonprofit cultural organizations, follow by discussing his work with artists and mediamakers as innovators in the use of technology for social change.
      Finally, Aldrin Rafael Bonilla, the Director of the Community Technology Innovations at the Fund for the City of New York, (and understudy for Mary McCormick, who was unable to attend), described various projects by the Fund which employed community-based technology to meet social needs.
      The short presentations were followed by an active Question and Answer period.

      CHECK OUT: We've posted some photos and audio excerpts will be coming soon.
    What's next?
    • To grow, people are pitching in to help out - organizing future salons, assemble case studies, help with outreach, etc. Join the listserv to learn more in an upcoming email.
    • If you attended, help us spread the word by sending us feedback (or add a comment below).
    • A possible event in San Francisco in March, perhaps in conjunction with GFC's presence at the Serious Games pre-summit to GDC
    • The next Salon!


    Games For Change in the Village Voice

    Posted by Benjamin Stokes on 01-13-05

    In this week’s Village Voice Educational supplement, Games For Change’s work with online gaming got a mention in “Game On! Will more professors develop video games for their classes?”

    ...Although New York schools haven’t designed many curricular games, the city has pushed ahead in a slightly different field-"meaningful content” games, which promote social and political awareness. Last June, a trio of New York-based nonprofits (NetAid, a U.N. organization that fights world poverty; Global Kids, Inc., a leadership group for urban youth; and Web Lab, a new-media think tank) hosted a conference called “Serious Issues, Serious Games” to explore ways of using digital playthings to “advance society.” Out of the conference emerged Games for Change, an interest group that has already worked with a number of pristine simulations where “winning” involves successfully dealing with issues like AIDS, poverty, and racial profiling.

    For educators, games are not only a catchy way to appeal to the otherwise bored and twitchy, but also a concrete embodiment of pedagogical theories about interactive, student-based learning. Unlike the usual proponents of vague and utopian teaching methods, those intellectually invested in video games feel a sense of inevitability about their project: Games have already outsold the Hollywood box office. According to Suzanne Seggerman, co-director of Games for Change, they will easily worm their way into the academy, just as film did 30 years ago.

    “Using video games as a learning tool is newborn, squirmy, and barely formed,” she says. “But it’s only a matter of time. Talk to me in 10 years. We’ll all be playing.”

    The rest can be found here.


    First in Salon Series: “The Untapped Resources of New York City”

    Posted by Benjamin Stokes on 12-18-04

    6-8pm on Tuesday, January 11, 2005

    This new quarterly discussion series will bring together key individuals and organizations interested in discussing the use of digital games to achieve non-profit missions. The focus for each evening will be a guided and provocative discussion inspired by 2-3 key speakers and followed by a lively social hour. The salons will be held at a spacious SoHo loft, with drinks and hors d’oeuvres provided.  The series launches on the heels of our first national conference this summer.

    Convened by the Games For Change steering committee, the first salon will feature three speakers and will gather together a group of 30-50 people from academia, industry and the nonprofit sectors to explore digital game partnership opportunities within New York City.  We’ll focus on the intersection of social issues, technology and innovation. RSVP required.  6-8pm, Tuesday January 11th, 2005, near Lafayette and Bond Street (exact address available upon RSVP to Suzanne Seggerman).

    High profile in their respective fields, the speakers are drawn from beyond the Serious Games movement to encourage broader perspectives and community.  Our first salon will feature the speakers below.
    * Mary McCormick is the President of the Fund for the City of New York, a private operating foundation established by the Ford Foundation in 1968 that focuses on civic innovation and implementation.
    * Kevin Duggan is an independent consultant specializing in planning and development for individual artists and nonprofits, and a former Senior Program Officer for Services and Technology at the New York Foundation for the Arts.
    * Franklin Madison, Jr., recently named one of Crain’s Top 100 individuals in technology in New York City, is responsible for the strategic development and implementation of new programs and grants to assist NYC high-tech firms.


    Serious Issues, Serious Games: The Non-Profit Perspective

    Posted by Benjamin Stokes on 10-10-04

    Our first annual conference was held on June 8, 2004 at the New York Academy of Sciences, New York City. The aim of the conference was to "to bring together non-profits, foundations and game developers to explore the use of digital games to advance organizational mission and societal change." The conference's primary goal was to mobilize support for a medium with growing importance for nonprofits, and to bring together a small group of practitioners to begin to discuss a long-term strategy for the larger non-profit community and its partners. As with Games for Health, those interested in the non-profit perspective are forming a community of peers with our assistance. This new group is working on non-profit organization specific missions, long-term goals, and communication tools like a listserv. The exploratory conference was organized by a steering committee drawn from several NY-based non-profits: Barry Joseph of Global Kids, Suzanne Seggerman of Web Lab, Benjamin Stokes of NetAid and Thomas Lowenhaupt, with generous help and guidance from Dave Rejeski of the Woodrow Wilson Center and financial support from the Richard Lounsberry Foundation.

    Many related items are now online:


    Launch of Games for Change Online

    Posted by Benjamin Stokes on 10-01-04

    With Games for Change, those interested in the non-profit perspective are forming a community comprising a distinct off-shoot of the broader Serious Games Initiative.  This new group has their own specific mission and long-term goals.  New online resources include:

    *** Sign up for our independent listserv (known as SIGSIG)

    *** Contribute to our wiki [outdated] for knowledge sharing