Sandra Day O'Connor, Henry Jenkins Back Socially-Conscious Gaming At Games For Change

Games For Change, a nonprofit organization that addresses games as "agents of social change," will be holding its fifth annual festival in New York City next week, June 2-4 at Parsons The New School For Design. Retired Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor will give a keynote, as will MIT's Dr. Henry Jenkins and Arizona State University's Dr. James Paul Gee.

This year, Games For Change kicks off the event with a MacArthur Foundation-funded one-day workshop aimed at non-profit professionals, to teach them how to make games about social issues. On June 3, Microsoft will host the event's Expo Night, which showcases serious games from designers around the world competing for recognition in the Microsoft-sponsored Imagine Cup, which the company announced last year. The challenge to designers asks them to develop games themed around supporting a sustainable environment.

The United Nations will also present games it created, including games about malaria prevention, water conservation and global poverty, and various other non-profit organizations are set to offer demonstrations as well.

Full announcement follows the jump. I'll be covering portions of the event next week, and I can't wait to play the Malaria Game! — In sincerity, I attended Games For Change last year and am looking forward to this year's, which looks much bigger than before!

Games for Change Fifth Annual Festival ­ June 2-4, 2008 Hosted by PARSONS The New School for design

Keynote Addresses by The Honorable Sandra Day O'Connor and Leading Game Scholars Dr. James Paul Gee and Henry Jenkins

New One-Day Workshop Funded by the MacArthur Foundation Teaches Non-Profit Professionals How to Make Social Issue Games, With a Major New Announcement From the AMD Foundation

Expo Night To Feature Microsoft Environmental Games Contest Finalists From Around the World

NEW YORK, May 20, 2008 ­ The nonprofit organization Games for Change presents its fifth annual festival in New York City, June 2-4, 2008 hosted by Parsons The New School for Design. The festival brings together leading non-profit organizations, game scholars, and industry experts to explore and expand the role of digital games as agents of social change and showcases some of the hottest new games in development during a special game expo. Highlights of the festival include a closing keynote by the Honorable Justice Sandra Day O¹Connor, and a one-day workshop funded by the MacArthur Foundation designed to teach non-profit professionals how to use games to fulfill their social issue missions. The AMD Foundation will also be making a major announcement on this day about a new education initiative involving social issue games.

³Now in our fifth year, the Games for Change festival is proud to have brought attention to games as a means to promote social impact initiatives,² said Suzanne Seggerman, President and Co-founder of Games for Change. ³This year¹s festival continues to showcase the best practices of social issue game design while increasing the accessibility of games among educators, non-profit leaders, philanthropic entities and others through new programs like the one-day workshop.²

This year¹s festival will feature two keynote addresses focusing on the vision and future of the public interest game community, beginning with a joint address by Dr. James Paul Gee of Arizona State University and Henry Jenkins of MIT on June 3. Both Gee and Jenkins are the leading scholars on learning and interactive media and joint advisors to MIT¹s Education Arcade, a consortium of educators and business leaders working to promote the educational use of computer and video games. On June 4, the Honorable Justice Sandra Day O'Connor will speak about a new interactive civics education project she is developing in partnership with Dr. Gee.

Now in its third year hosting the Games for Change Festival, The New School recently deepened its relationship with the organization through the launch of PETLab, the first public interest game design and research laboratory for interactive media. Supported by a grant from the MacArthur Foundation, the lab connects the work of the public and private sector with educators and designers to build an overall framework for design as a learning activity. MORE ³Through the development of PETLab, Parsons and Games for Change are supporting the next generation of social impact game designers while encouraging the real-world application of these games,² said New School President Bob Kerrey, who will deliver opening remarks at the keynote speech by Justice Sandra Day O¹Connor. ³This incubator fulfills the university¹s mission to strengthen the connections between design and the social sciences.²

The June 3 Expo Night, hosted by Microsoft, will showcase the latest social issues games in development. Microsoft will present games designed by finalists in the ³Xbox 360 Games for Change Challenge². The designers, flown in from around the world, will present their games. As part of Microsoft¹s Imagine Cup Competition, this nationwide, socially responsible game initiative was launched at last year¹s Expo to challenge game designers to use technology to support a sustainable environment. There will also be a showcase of games created by the United Nations, including games about malaria prevention, water conservation, and global poverty. Other non-profits will display games on immigration, Hurricane Katrina and ³playing the news.² PETLab will also participate in the Expo.

This year¹s festival features the addition of a full day of programming on June 2nd dedicated to helping non-profits utilize gaming technology to fulfill their mission of social service. Titled ŒLet the Games Begin: A 101 Workshop on Making Social Issue Games,¹ the workshop is one of 17 winners out of more than 1000 applicants of the MacArthur Foundation¹s DML (Digital Media and Learning) Competition. This workshop provides hands-on sessions by notable figures in the field on the fundamentals of social issue games featuring leading experts on topics including game design, fundraising, evaluation, youth participation, distribution, and press strategies. 101 Workshop is sponsored by the AMD Foundation, a leading technology corporation which is announcing a major new philanthropic initiative on this day.

Throughout the festival, panels will address hot-button topics as such as impact assessment, games and journalism, funding challenges and public media initiatives. Featured panelists including: game designers Jim Gasperini (Hidden Agenda), Chris Crawford (Balance of Power and Balance of the Planet), and Ken Eklund (creator of World Without Oil); Dr. Michael Levine, director of the Joan Ganz Cooney Center; Shelley Pasnick, director of the Center for Children and Technology; Mary Flanagan, director of the Tiltfactor Lab; Tracy Fullerton, director of the USC Electronic Arts Game Innovation Lab; and representatives from Participant Productions, the MacArthur and Knight Foundations, PBS, and Electronic Arts, among many others. The full festival agenda is available at http://www.gamesforchange.org/conference/2008/program.php.

Games for Change (http://www.gamesforchange.org) provides support, visibility and shared resources to individuals and organizations using digital games for social change, with special assistance to non-profits and foundations entering the field. Called ³the Sundance of Videogames² for ³socially-responsible game-makers², G4C acts as the international nexus and primary community of practice for public interest games, and includes hundreds of organizations and individuals in the nonprofit sector, industry, academia, government, and the arts.

PETLab (Protyping, Evaluating, Teaching and Learning Laboratory) a joint project of Games for Change and Parsons The New School for Design, was launched in December 2007 through a grant from the MacArthur Foundation's digital media and learning initiative. 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.

The New School (www.newschool.edu ) is a leading progressive university comprising eight schools all poised to prepare undergraduate and graduate students to effect lasting change in the world. Part of the university, Parsons The New School for Design is one of the premier degree-granting colleges of art and design in the nation. Its graduates and faculty appear on the shortlist of outstanding practitioners in every realm of art and design.

The 2008 Fifth Annual Games for Change Festival is sponsored by the AMD Foundation, Games for Windows, Microsoft, Parsons the New School for Design, and Xbox 360.