G4C 2011 Field Report
The 8th annual Games for Change Festival (June 20-22) is currently underway in New York City. Roving PAXsims reporter Skip Cole brings us this report:
Monday was the “Games for Change Pre-Festival.” I spent the morning at the Educational Track, and part of the evening at the International Track and then a lot of time networking. During the morning I learned of a lot of great efforts in the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) field using games to excite and engage children. Many of these efforts allow the children to create simulations themselves. Tools such as Game Salad, Gamestar Mechanic and Activate make this possible. I’m definitely going to try out these free tools with my boys. Maybe not the loud 3-year-old, just yet.
It was pointed out that creating games leads to holistic thinking, and also that the current set of game creation tools provide rather constrained environments. But as the children learn the basics, they will then be able to advance toward more sophisticated tools such as Java and Flash.
One effort sent out cameras to the students, and then got a lot of great footage back. They quite proudly discussed their games and their ‘play test groups’ a.k.a. cousins and friends. I find all of this really inspiring, but with one small caveat. I think that the video game industry tends to chew people up and spit them out. I don’t know we are doing these kids a favor pointing them all in that direction. But most of them will figure that out as they grow up, and a love of science will serve them all very well.
The highlight of the day was Al Gore’s presentation. He seemed very sincere in his hope that many of today’s problems will be tackled with the help of games. On behalf of USIP I asked a question regarding a course we are considering creating on conflict and environmental change. He seemed to appreciate the question and desired more time to think about it, and then went on to mention the evaporation of Lake Chad, the sinking of Maldives and the creation of ‘environmental change refugees.’ (I’m sure there is a new acronym in their somewhere.)
At the international track I learned about Evoke, which was a success based on their metrics. Then I networked a bit and finally bounced back to the educational track at the end of the day. There I found people talking about what tools they have and need. I really need to learn to use Twitter! (At my old employer, it was not really a tool that was emphasized.) People were pretty happy with their tools, but tight at the end someone said that ‘somehow this all still somehow feels kind of niche.’ I could not agree more. My own favorite tool, the USIP OSP, is meant to help get more of this into the mainstream. I do think that one unifying tool or platform is called for. (In spite of the conventional wisdom, that an ‘eco-system’ of tools will prevail.)