Serious Games

FWD News: Industry Events Focus on Diverse Power of Games, Pt 1

INplay 2011 LogoWith the spring and summer seasons comes a series of gaming industry events focusing on a variety of themes, from health and defence to training and other serious games. Game Forward is giving you a peek at some of these events scheduled in the months of May and June.

This overview takes a closer look at the 7th Annual Games for Health Conference, the INplay conference, the Learning and Entertainment Evolution Forum and the 8th Annual Games for Change Festival. In an upcoming post, we will also feature events taking place later this summer and learn about some events you might have missed. Read More...

Games for Health

Starting this week is the 7th Annual Games for Health Conference in Boston, MA, running May 18-19, 2011. As in previous years, the event will bring together hundreds of game developers, health professionals and researchers who will share their work and ideas on how video games and related technologies can work to improve health and health care provision. The conference will open with a keynote by Dr. Martin Seligman, Director of the University of Pennsylvania Positive Psychology Center, entitled “Positive Psychology>Positive Computing>Positive Videogames.”

More than 60 speakers are scheduled to appear, with the event introducing a new Nutrition and Games Track in addition to the Sensorimotor Rehab Track, the Exergaming & Active Gaming Track, the Cognitive & Emotional Health Track and the Social Games, Communities & Virtual Worlds Track. In addition, with support from various companies involved with The Continua Health Alliance, the Games for Health conference will be offering extra sessions on May 18, devoted to exploring ideas involving health games powered by biometric and environmental sensor data.

Sessions which caught our eye at Game Forward include presentations on the challenges and achievements of using Microsoft’s Kinect for rehabilitation; the use of casual games in reducing clinical depression; a review of nutrition game offerings; the use of Nintendo Wii for post-burn rehabilitation; games that teach social perception skills in autism patients; a game for veterans living with post-traumatic stress disorder; research on a game for Parkinson’s disease; safer sex through gaming; a panel on gamifying health care; and experimental prototypes of active rhythm games. The full schedule is available here.

Along with the main conference, three co-located events are schedule on May 17, making up the rest of the Games Beyond Entertainment Week. Ludica Medica is a complimentary event to medical virtual reality or simulation sessions. It will cover topics such as the development of next-generation artificial intelligence systems to improve key component technologies such as realistic patient interviews; specialized medical and biological models and visualizations that can be plugged into new games for training and education; and the conversion of off-the-shelf game technologies—including software, hardware and controllers—for use in medical modeling and simulation.

The second event, Enabled Play: The 3rd Annual Games Accessibility Day picks up where it left off last year, looking at ways of helping people with disabilities play their way to better health and wellness. The Day will offer talks, networking opportunities and demonstrations dedicated to making all games more accessible.

Returning this year, the Out & About: 2nd Annual Mobile Serious Games Conference is building on the success it had in 2010 and will be devoted to the opportunities for serious games in the mobile, handheld and sensor-based gaming spaces. One of the event’s tracks will also be dedicated entirely to health-related applications.


Taking place on May 17-18, 2011, in Toronto, Canada, the INplay 2011 conference is described as a unique, international event that connects kids creative industries with insights and opportunities in the interactive world. The conference brings together leaders in the “kids space” to learn, network and be inspired by the future of kids interactive digital media and is organized by Interactive Ontario.

The event is broken down into three streams, “insights” on research and e-learning, “inspiration” on creativity and content, and “investment” on business matters. Of particular interest to us at Game Forward are sessions on the gamification of education, cutting edge input devices, the skill-building power of game creation, how to create fun game-based learning environments, the development of play-based curriculums, and one day at the Quest to Learn school founded by the Institute of Play in New York. To view the full schedule, click here.

Learning and Entertainment Evolution Forum

The Leaning and Entertainment Evolution Forum (LEEF), taking place on June 16-17, 2011, in Harrisburg, PA, invites education and interactive media professionals to explore the evolving use of games, simulations and virtual worlds for learning. Participants will be connecting to share best practices, discuss new and bold approaches, and identify new technologies that may shape how people learn in the future.

The Forum will offer a mixture of keynote presentations, case studies, workshop sessions and high-tech demonstrations. Scheduled are headlining presentations by Nathan Verrill, co-Founder of Natron Baxter Applied Gaming and Gameful, who will be speaking about fun not being the enemy of work; Michael Macedonia, Vice President and Chief Scientist at Science Applications International Corporation, will be talking about immersive education and training; while Phaedra Boinodiris, Serious Games Program Manager at IBM, will be discussing how her employer is leading change through serious games.

Ten case studies will touch on the leading edge application of alternate reality games, serious games, mobile learning, simulations and virtual worlds. Eight workshop sessions will be grouped under the themes of instructional design and implementation. Discussions will focus on various phases of educational game design and development, from working in learning objectives and building a compelling user experience to the use of new technologies and reaching out social outcasts through virtual worlds. You can check out the LEEF blog for more highlights.

Games for Change

Back for the 8th year, the 2011 Games for Change Festival continues to be a key event in the social impact and serious games field, running June 20-22, 2011, at the New York University Skirball Center. The Festival will unite “games for change” creators, the public, civil society, academia, the gaming industry and games media. Former US Vice-President Al Gore is featured as the opening speaker.

“Vice President Gore is a significant global advocate who has effectively used popular media to bring issues of pressing concern to mainstream audiences,” said Games for Change co-Presidents Asi Burak and Michelle Byrd. The Festival will also include talks by game designer Jesse Schell,’s Laura Hartman, US Department of Education’s James H. Shelton III and Half the Sky co-author Sheryl WuDunn. To view the full Games for Change schedule, click here.

Returning for the second year will be the event entitled “Inspiring Digital Kids Through Game Design” on June 20, sponsored by the AMD Foundation. The day-long program is aimed at educators and organizations working with youth in classroom or informal settings and looking to empower youth to create their own digital games.

During the closing ceremony on June 22, the Festival will also unveil the winners of four Annual Games for Change Awards, recognizing excellence in “games for change.” Nominees in the Direct Impact, Knight News Game, Learning & Education and Transmedia categories each address current or pressing social issues or work to produce sustainable and positive social impact.

In addition to its wide range of workshops and talks, Games for Change has introduced a new collaboration with the Come Out & Play Festival. Together they have launched the first Real-world Games for Change Challenge, to commission a new outdoor game integrating real-world interaction and the philosophy of social impact games. The goal of the game is to drive players to leave an actual positive change on the physical environment where the game will be played.

The winners of the challenge have designed Commons, a game for urban communities to improve their city through citizen stewardship. Game designers Suzanne Kirkpatrick, Nien Lam and Jamie Lin will have the opportunity to present their work and findings during Games for Change. The game will be played on June 19, and will later be featured during a free summer festival in New York City in July.

Also new this year is the Demo Spotlight, an opportunity for six game developers to present their projects on the main stage of the Festival. An open panel of designers and funders will be available to give feedback to the projects, selected for representing the diversity and breadth of social impact games currently in development.

The Festival will also be home to a day-long program on June 20, “The Case for Social Impact Games” hosted in collaboration with NetHope, which will present case studies for decision-makers from NGOs, corporations, government, non-profits and foundations interested in a high-level overview of social impact games.  And on June 22, the Games for Learning Institute will present a day of programming centered on the theme “Design Patterns for Games for Learning.”

Don’t miss our upcoming post in this series, taking a peak at events coming later this summer and at some you might have missed earlier this year.