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Games 4 Change 2013

This is my third year of attending the Games 4 Change conference* and I am excited about the growth of the serious/social impact/persuasive game genres.  I love to infuse games in the curriculum I teach AND the curriculum I help design with ASU Online faculty.  I’ve seen and experienced the power of games — immersive and tiny (non-immersive).  Simply, good games enhance learning.

Here are a few opening day highlights:

  • Opening Keynote by Google’s Chief Technology Advocate Michael Jones.  Incredible!  I am so excited to play Ingress (Don’t know what Ingress is?  Watch the recording to find out — too many gems in Michael’s talk and I don’t want to shortchange you by summarizing them here.  You just have to watch!) and am thinking we’ll have to get an ASU Online Campus Ingress group going!
  • Conversation with the Gates Foundation Deputy Director of Education Stacey Childress. Wow. This moderated discussion mentioned the recently released SRI study which suggested that in STEM subjects, the use of digital games could raise cognitive learning outcomes by 12 percent.
  • Plague, Inc..  Creator James Vaughn recently spoke to the US Centers for Disease Control on his infectious disease game, Plague, Inc. The mobile phone app (@ 99 cents with in app purchases; iTunes/Google Play) models the spread of infectious disease. “Your pathogen has just infected ‘Patient Zero’. Now you must bring about the end of human history by evolving a deadly, global Plague whilst adapting against everything humanity can do to defend itself.” (iTunes description) I have been playing this game all afternoon!
  • Farm Defenders.  “Farm Defenders is a 3D farm simulation game spanning the entire continent of Africa.  Create farms in every environment, from the lush tropics to the barren deserts. Grow your crops and become wealthy all while preventing disease, pests, and maximizing yield using real-life African farming techniques. The simulation is realistic to the details of the local soil type, weather, and natural challenges.”  This game was mentioned by  Eric Gordon and Stephen Walter of Engagement Game Labs (I can’t wait for Civic Seed and Community PlanIt to be completed and disseminated in a form that can be easily replicated. I was disappointed to discover last year that Participatory Chinatown wasn’t sustainable due to platform issues.) as a solid urban planning game.  I can’t comment on the game personally as it is currently only available for Windows machines  and I am a Mac purist. (NSEAD, the Gates Foundation, and the ICON Group International, Inc. funded the game.)  A future Mac release date is planned.

More tomorrow!

* Often referred to as “the Sundance of Video Games”, the Games for Change Annual Festival is the biggest gaming event in New York City, attracting over 800 participants every year. It brings together leaders from government, corporations, civil society, media, academia, and the gaming industry to explore the increasing real-world impact of digital games as an agent for social change.