The Games for Change 6th Annual Festival wrapped up on May 29, 2009 after three full days of discussion and sharing on the real-world impact of digital games and their place as an agent for social change. Bringing together non-profit organizations, academics, journalists and game developers, the event aimed to explore how best to use the power of games to address issues like poverty, climate change, global conflicts and human rights.
The Games for Change conference was also the stage for the 2009 Knight News Game Award, meant to highlight the year’s best news game: journalistic games which enhance an individual's ability to make decisions within democracy. The award winners were announced on May 28. Read More...
Taking first place was Play the News, a web-based game which aims to change news consumption from passive reading to active engagement. Developed by ImpactGames LLC, Play the News builds on community participation and allows players to build a snapshot of their socio-political profile over time on a range of issues.
Other awards were presented to September 12th by Gonzalo Frasca (Lifetime Achievement), The Budget Maze by Gotham Gazette and Hurricane Katrina: Tempest in Crescent City by Global Kids (Honorable Mentions).
Coinciding with the conference, AMD announced that it would be expanding its Changing the Game education program, unveiling three new partnerships. AMD will be offering grants to Skillpoint Alliance, the World Wide Workshop and to Southwest Key, three organizations whose goal is to create and promote socially conscious games in educational settings. AMD also announced the expansion of other similar ongoing partnerships.
Apply Serious Game and Virtual Worlds 2009 Expo and Forum
On May 7, winners of this conference’s first Most Popular & Engaging Serious Game and Most Popular & Engaging Educational Game awards were announced. The opportunity to showcase some of the year’s best games in the field was a success for organizers and winners alike.
“The high quality of entries for this, the first year of the ASG Awards, has made folk realise the excellent production and pedagogy values of many serious and educational games - and the ubiquity of application.” said Martine Parry, Director of Apply Group to Game Forward.
Taking the first place in the Educational Games category was Drake's Island, designed by Stoke Damerel Community College and partners. Built using the Teen Second Life platform, the game is a virtual world created to enhance learning and literacy. The game presents impressive initial results, with 80 percent of students achieving their target writing levels within one term of the program, two terms ahead of expectations.
Presenting this game at the Apply conference has been a beneficial experience, explains Darren Towers, Media Advanced Skills Teacher at Stoke Damerel and Drake's Island project leader. “The competition has certainly helped our media profile. We are hoping that the media coverage may connect us to more potential funding bodies and investors as we try to roll out the Drake’s Island Project to other schools and into other curricular areas.”
“Just as usefully it has started to connect me up to other global projects working in a similar way to us. Linden Labs have also contacted us and are going to visit (both in world and in real life) and spread awareness of the project,” said Towers to Game Forward.
The Enterprise Game by PIXELearning was the runner up. The online game is described as an enjoyable and engaging simulation which teaches players enterprise skills and helps improve behavioural, confidence and skills in a business environment.
Helen Axe, Marketing Assistant for PIXELearning, explained to Game Forward the undeniable benefits of this public recognition. “Entering this award did increase visitors to our site and had increase trial requests for our games. This particular game is being used hugely in the north east where it has over 5000 users which grows on a daily basis.”
In the Serious Games category, winning first place with 52 percent of the public vote was Ship Simulator Professional by VSTEP. The software is described as a state-of-the-art specialized training tool, which can be configured for a wide range of training needs, and feature advanced ship dynamics, a realistic simulation model, and high quality 3D imaging.
For VSTEP, receiving this award goes beyond a warm recognition. “It generates a lot of press interest,” said Frank Dolmans, the company’s Chief Marketing Officer, to Game Forward. “The more people know about serious games, the better it is and the faster acceptance by the general public will be.”
VSTEP also offers other serious simulation products, such as RescueSim, a virtual incident management training program which allows users to create disaster scenarios in order to train employees in strategic management.
Coming in second place, FloodSim by PlayGen, was honoured for its game which puts players in control of flood policy decisions and spending in the UK for 3 years. Players must decide how much money to allocate to flood defences, where to build houses, or how best to inform people about the risk of flooding.
PlayGen will notably be presenting a paper titled “Societal Impact of a Serious Game on Raising Public Awareness: The Case of FloodSim” at Siggraph 2009 during the Supporting Social and Persuasive Play session of the conference.