Microsoft's Satchell Talks Games For Change

"Imagine a world where we have no ability to influence the people that are going to lead and shape thought for tomorrow," said Microsoft's Chris Satchell, general manager of XNA.

"We have social causes we care about, but we don't have the means to connect with people who can do something about them. We're not there, but its a world that's possible to see unless actvities like we're doing here today really gain some momentum."

Satchell was at the 2008 annual Games For Change festival, discussing the ways Microsoft hopes its XNA development platform will help provide creative activists and educators the tools and opportunities to connect with the young, energetic audience passionate about new media and world issues.

"People will base their lives around gaming experiences; gaming experiences will permeate their lives," he said, stressing just how important it was for the culture to recognize games as agents of genuine social impact.

So what is Microsoft doing?

"We can't solve everything, and won't even try. But what Microsoft can do is can help with a couple of key issues," Satchell said. Creativity struggles to reach the masses, he said, because it takes a long time for a single idea to make it all the way to the top of the industry.

Instead, he said, "We took everything we knew about professional tools and put it in a free product, and made it easy to use."

Social change games need to be built on the same console that people are playing games on already, he said. XNA is "not a silver bullet by any means - it's just one tool they have now to teach sciences or to teach the science of gaming."

Last year Microsoft announced its Imagine Cup competition, challenging users to submit XNA-built games around the theme of environmental sustainability. Over100 submissions were received from 60 different countries, and the winner will be chosen during the finals in Paris later this year.

And at Microsoft's XNA Creators' Club, people can submit new creations or mod existing ones, and then the community moderates and reviews the material.

"You can have a great game that is fun but says something social," said Satchell.