Game for Change 2018 (Day 1 Recap)

Posted by Justin D Williams

The 15th Annual Games for Change Festival began their three day-long programming with a special proclamation from New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, declaring June 28, 2018 as “Games for Change Day.” By exploring the challenges faced by refugees, LGBTQ youth, children with autism, people suffering from mental illness, and much more, the games and presentations featured at the Games for Change festival over the last fifteen years have promoted equality, understanding, and inclusivity by giving players the opportunity to experience reality from a different point of view.

“For 15 years, Games for Change has encouraged the top minds in tech to develop digital games that can bring about positive social change,” said Mayor de Blasio in the Proclamation. “I am proud to join with all those gathered here to applaud G4C, all of this year’s award winners, and everyone participating in the festival for their commitment to forging a better tomorrow for us all.”

Day 1 of the Festival also featured the Games for Change Awards ceremony, which honored games in the following categories: Best Gameplay, Most Innovative, Most Significant Impact and Best Learning Game, and Game of the Year. The winners announced were:


●        GAME OF THE YEAR (Honoring the exemplary game that achieves all three dimensions: impact, innovation and gameplay)

○        WINNER: Life is Strange: Before the Storm (Developed by Deck Nine Games)

■        Life is Strange: Before the Storm features Chloe Price, a 16 year-old rebel who forms an unlikely friendship with Rachel Amber, a popular girl destined for success. When Rachel’s world is turned upside down by a family secret they give each other the strength to overcome their demons.


●        MOST SIGNIFICANT IMPACT (Honoring the games that target a specific social issue with proven actions/outcomes like awareness, civic learning, community building, or behavior change.)

○        WINNER: Life is Strange: Before the Storm (Developed by Deck Nine Games)


●        BEST GAMEPLAY (Honoring the games with highly compelling and engaging gameplay whose game mechanics align with and reinforce impact goals.)

○     WINNER: What Remains of Edith Finch (Developed by Giant Sparrow)

■        What Remains of Edith Finch is a collection of strange tales about a family in Washington state. As Edith, you’ll explore the colossal Finch house, searching for stories as she explores her family history and tries to figure out why she's the last one in her family left alive.


●        MOST INNOVATIVE (Honoring the games that demonstrate creativity and aspire to bring new ideas through unique game design, technology and/or audiences. These games embrace experimentation to break conventions of form or concept in a manner that may pave new ways for the sector.)

○        WINNER: Tree (Developed by New Reality Company)

■        Tree transforms you into a majestic rainforest tree. With your arms as branches and body as a trunk, you’ll experience the tree’s life from a seedling to its fullest form and witness its fate firsthand.


●        BEST LEARNING GAME (Honoring the games that offer meaningful engagement around intended learning objectives with measurable outcomes. Examples of types of learning include cognitive skills (academic subjects, memory), social/emotional skills (empathy, bullying), physical health (movement, nutrition), and creative well-being.)

○        WINNER: Attentat 1942 (Developed by Charles University, Czech Academy of Sciences)

■        Attentat 1942 is a unique game that tells the story of Nazi occupation from the perspective of those who experienced it firsthand. The game is built on dialogues with survivors, interactive comics, and authentic historical footage. Speak to eyewitnesses, live their memories, and discover the untold story of your family.



○        WINNER: Hellblade: Senua's Sacrifice (Developed by Ninja Theory)

■        Set in the Viking age, a broken Celtic warrior embarks on a haunting vision quest into Viking Hell to fight for the soul of her dead lover. Created in collaboration with neuroscientists and people who experience psychosis, Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice will pull you deep into Senua’s mind.

 Katie Salen (University of California, Irvine; Chief Designer and co-founder of Connected Camps and founding Executive Director of Institute of Play) who gave a keynote presentation that explored a play-based approach to raising socially and emotionally aware gamers, was presented with the Games for Change Vanguard Award for her commitment to games with social impact.

 This year, Games for Change launched a CharityBuzz campaign, with bidding lots that include: Lunch with Dr. Adam Gazzaley and a tour of the Neuroscape Lab in San Francisco; Meet with speaker Prof. Aorangi Popovic and Visit the Center for Game Science in Seattle; Meet speaker Dan Ayoub, Tour & Private Demo at the Microsoft Holocene Lab; Meet Maxime Durand, Chief Historian of Assassin’s Creed & Tour the Ubisoft HQ in Montreal; VIP Tour of Ubisoft in San Francisco, Lunch, Guitar Lesson and Hotel & Airfare. The campaign is open until Tuesday, July 10, 2018 at 3:00 PM EST.

Festival attendees were treated to a slate of presentations by industry leaders in the Festival’s three focused tracks: Neurograming & Health, Civics & Social Issues and Games for Learning. The keynote speakers included, Rajesh Anandan (Senior Vice President UNICEF Ventures, UNICEF USA), Adam Bellow (Co-Founder, Breakout EDU), Robert Torres, (Chief Strategy Officer, Teach the World Foundation), Katie Salen, (2018 Games for Change Vanguard Award recipient), Maxime Durand (Franchise Historian for Assassin's Creed, Ubisoft Montreal), Marc-Andre Ethier (Professor, Universite de Montreal), and Kate Edwards (CEO & Principal Consultant, Geogrify.)