Me and the Games For Change Festival: Where to find me

Tomorrow begins the 11th annual Games For Change Festival, with a projected attendance of 800 people, over four days. What a difference 11 years makes! When we co-founded it in 2004, we could barely schedule enough speakers for a half-day affair, and just filled the room with 42 people.

But what people! Connie Yowell, of the MacArthur Foundation, who would launch a few years later their Digital Media and Learning Initiative, which funded research, programs, publications, networks, tools and more that would initiate a dramatic shift in our understanding of learning in a digital age. Carl Goodman, who would become the Executive Director of The Museum of the Moving Image, which has developed two excellent exhibits on games, hosted many years of the Machinima Festival, and numerous youth education programs using game design. Eric Zimmerman, co-founder of GameLab, one of the most original, independent game studies in NYC which, amongst other things, would lead to the development of Quest to Learn (the NYC game-design based school) and Ayiti, one of the earliest and best examples of a game that treated game play as serious as its content (poverty in Haiti). And these are just three of the many amazing attendees. Together they represented the worlds of foundations and public policy, museums and non-profits, independent game designers, and more.

What made the Festival so special? It brought them all togther.

I was reminded of all this not simply because these are the hours of calm before my week of fun, inspiration, networking, frustrations and exhaustion, but because USA Today just posted their excellent article, “11 years on, Games For Change festival maturing.” I have to feel pride when I read, “It’s hard not to notice how big, and perhaps how mainstream, the little event has become.” Not because I deserve ANY credit for its massive growth – that happened AFTER I left – but because this has been a movement I have rooted for since day one. And nothing would excite me more for the issues it addresses, the discussions it supports, and the synergies it sparks to reach a broader audience.

Closer to home, if you want to reach me this week, look no further than Games For Change.

Tuesday, April 22 – I will be Speed Networking – “Enjoy morning networking opportunities with leaders in the game-world and experts in other fields who are using game-thinking to solve some of the world’s biggest challenges.”

Wednesday April 23 – I will be moderating a game design competition – Shoot For the Moon – that will award $25,000 to one of three contestants who want to help an Israeli non-profit reach their goal of getting an unmanned craft to the moon. Should be fascinating. More here.

Thursday April 24 – I will be participating on the half-hour long panel, The Minecraft Experience, with enough heavy hitters that we could spend a day and not finish tackling the topic. Come see how fast we can talk!

Saturday, April 26 – I will be supporting the AMNH booth at the first G4C Public Arcade at the Tribeca Family Festival Street Fair. It will be pterosaurs all day – come play Pterosaurs: The Card Game, buy your own copy to take home, experience the free augmented app that lets you hold your own flying pterosaur, and, if you’re lucky, you might get your own 3D printed pterosaur vertebra.

Phew! It’s going to be some week.

All this reflecting both into the decade-plus past and into the next few days got me curious to see what I could find online about my contributions to past G4C Festivals. In reverse chronological order:

2013: Does Games For Change Have a Future? (a reflection on the past and next decade)

2013: How New Definitions of “Games” & “Change” Have Transformed the G4C Festival

2011: Me on NY1 talking up the Festival:

2011: I interview Jessy Jo Gomez for “Trends in Gaming: Youth Designing Games” (Just try not to get all teary!) and participated in the Inspiring Digital Kids With Game Design Workshop.:

2010: The Games for Change Serious Games Toolkit was launched, featuring curriculum, research and more on our game Ayiti: The Cost of Life and I coordinated this panel: Spreading Serious Game Design: Global Kids’ Playing For Keeps Capacity Building Program:

2008: Launched Hurricane Katrina: Tempest in Crescent City, presented on this panel, and gave this insanely fast presentation on the history of everything serious gaming:

2007: With Ayiti: The Cost of Life we won the first Games for Change (“GaCha”) Awards.

2005: Here’s a blog post that describes my presentation about Playing For Keeps. “He was moving too fast for me to even transcribe his slides, never mind what he was saying… and it was all gold.”


About Barry

The Associate Director For Digital Learning, Youth Initiatives at the American Museum of Natural History.
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