I really don’t go to conferences any more…they are usually repackaged versions of the same old topics with the same old speakers. But attending the 11th Annual Games for Change Festival in New York last week was a breath of fresh air. There was no exhibition hall at G4C …only an entrance hall filled with gaming consoles and lots on interesting games to play. The audience was fun, smart and very causal and yes I did see a few participants with Google glasses!
The topics were diverse and fascinating. Some random observations:
- Social games can deal with serious topics but at the end of the day they must be exciting, challenging and fun if they are going to engage players and keep their attention. Interesting games can cover serious topics.
- A handful of presentations analyzed award winning games such as Papers, Please, Gone Home and Games for Peace. On the surface they appear to be interesting “play” games, yet on closer examination, presenters explained that they are constructed to engage players in more serious issues such as ethical decision making, developing empathy, roll playing behaviors, and teamwork.
- A hot topic discussed at the conference was using research to develop and refine games. Opinions on this topic were shared throughout the meeting. Some developers had no use for research. Other, especially those game developers who had worked in teams with educators or health providers such as Planned Parenthood supported the important role of research in getting the content right. It reminded me of trying to get creative directors at an ad agency to pretest their ads. Sigh.
- Most games for girls fall into two categories: makeup and dress up or educational games. In a study of girls ages 8-14 presented by Rajal Pitroda, girls interviewed stated they wanted more variety; games that reflected their interests: adventure, sports even “shooter” games. They also wanted more variety in the girl characters that are portrayed in games. Seems to me there is a big untapped market there.
I sat in on some panels on using games to cultivate creativity and innovation in schools, make math fun and even promote conflict resolution in the Middle East among young adults. I learned that PBS has reincarnated Mr. Rodgers as a cartoon tiger called Daniel Tiger. He stills wears the cardigan sweater but it is just not the same.
I also learned that parents whose kids play games are the same as parents whose kids surf the internet and parents whose kids watched television. They worry about the time their kids spend playing games; they worry about the effect of games on their brain and personality; they limit the time they can play and they encourage them to go outside and play.
To find out more about the conference go to: http://gamesforchange.org/festival/.