Note from Beth:I’ve been a fan of Games for Change Festival since 2006 when I first heard about it, almost ten years ago.  While I have not been able to attend every year, I do publish a guest post every year with a roundup of how nonprofits are embracing the use of games. In return, Games for Change Festival offers my readers a discount on the registration (read on).

How Nonprofits Are Using Games for Mission Driven Work – guest post by Susanna Pollack

Every year, more nonprofits and cause-minded organization getting into games – not just playing them but producing or developing them to share their mission with gamers around the world.

Games for Change (a nonprofit that’s executive-produced games ourselves!) unites the social impact sector, games industry, media, government, and more to highlight stellar game-based projects with positive impact.

See how these nonprofits, which will be featured at the annual games for good conference the Games for Change Festival on June 23 to 24, are engaging game players to inspire them to learn, walk in others’ shoes, and take positive action.

Don’t miss this special offer for Beth’s Blog readers: Get 20% off passes with the code beth20!

Girl Scouts: Coding, game-making, and STEM learning
The Girl Scouts have been committed to advancing STEM education for girls throughout its history, dating back more than 100 years. To that end, several of their recent programs have centered on promoting STEM learning to girls through interactive engagement and games, like Digital Cookie and Be the Game Developer. At the G4C Festival, Girl Scouts CEO Anna Maria Chávez will explain how the organization is developing a generation of social entrepreneurs and mentors to empower girls with the 21st-century skills and entrepreneurial know-how to succeed in business, improve their communities, and developing their own advocacy and service projects.

How I Decide: Poker as a Lab for Studying Irrationality
When Annie Duke changed careers from behavioral scientist to poker player, she was mindful of the challenges that kept many poker players from continually learning and improving. Along the way to becoming a champion player, she made some valuable connections between common decision-making errors and learning (or lack thereof). She will share some of what she learned and habits she formed, and how she applied it to her nonprofit, HowIDecide.org, which aims to equip youth with skills to be better decision makers throughout their lives. How I Decide is particularly interested in using entertaining games to create and improve healthy habit formation for decision making in youth. They teach how to decide… not what to decide.

Code.org: Star Wars: Building a galaxy with code
The Hour of Code 2015 was the world’s largest learning event, with 198,000 events taking place in 180 countries. Through a partnership with Disney and LucasFilm, Code.org built a Star Wars-themed tutorial played by millions of students who learned the basics of coding and made their own games in a single hour. With an emphasis placed on girls and minorities, the Hour of Code teaches every student that they can power their own creativity. Code.org’s Brendan Reville speaks at the Festival about the challenges of building this game-style educational experience that takes students from zero programming experience to making their first computer game in one hour.

N Square Collaborative: Why nuclear weapons are too important NOT to play with
What do you think of when you hear “nuclear weapons”? Action movies? Spy films? Maybe you think about history, and how nukes are a bygone issue. Or maybe you just don’t think about them at all. Working with Games for Change, the N Square collaborative hosted the N Square Challenge, which invited anyone to submit a game idea about the risk of nuclear weapons. The winning concept, Epic Orphan, is now being developed to raise awareness of the issues surrounding nuclear weapons. Seeing how current games treat nuclear catastrophe as a backdrop to narrative, the Epic Orphan design team aspires to be more forward-thinking on how this subject is being treated.

Video Games Without Borders: Global, collaborative game development for good
Can a volunteer and collaborative approach be applied to game development and distribution? The nonprofit organization Video Games Without Borders has been experimenting in this direction for more than a year, building a global community of volunteer developers and focusing on games with a positive impact on the society. Many are the challenges, especially about the productivity and the sustainability of such a model, but the feedback received so far has proven its potential and its interest among both students and experienced professionals.

Bandura Games: Games Bridging the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict and Beyond
Bandura Games’ mission is to create empathy and connections for people of different backgrounds from around the world, and the most effective medium through which to do that is games. (While they are not a nonprofit, this cause is simply too amazing to not include on this list!) At the Festival, they will share lessons learned from observing the gameplay of hundreds of Israeli and Palestinian youth, and how these lessons can help developers build games to bridge ethnic, religious and racial conflicts.

Don’t miss the Games for Change Festival on June 23 to 24 and a special offer for Beth’s Blog readers: Get 20% off passes with the code beth20!

Susanna Pollack

Susanna Pollack is the President of Games for Change. With a background in media and entertainment, she now leads the nationally recognized organization and produces the annual Games for Change Festival, the largest gaming event in NYC as well as the Games and Media Summit in partnership with the Tribeca Film Festival. Susanna also works closely with organizations that are actively pursuing digital games to further their public or CSR mission. For clients, including American Express Foundation, United Nations, Carnegie Foundation, Ad Council, and McKinsey Social, she has initiated dozens of programs to advance the games for good sector.


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