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Highlights from Day 1 of the 11th Annual Games for Change Festival

Earlier today, Games for Change kicked off the first day of the 11th Annual Games for Change Festival, held as part of the Tribeca Innovation Week at the 2014 Tribeca Film Festival, presented by AT&T (TFF). You can catch archived footage at their Livestream channel.

Below is a recap of today’s event, including highlights from a few key presentations.

Highlights from Day 1 of the Games for Change Panel include:

In a session on how games can achieve social impact at scale, GlassLab (the Games, Learning and Assessment Lab), discussed how  collaboration is the key to increasing the social impact of games. The Lab is a collaboration between leaders in commercial games, experts in learning and assessment, and many other organizations with a role to play in the landscape of 21st century learning. Participants got a first look at a new game, launched at Games for Change, called Mars Generation One: Argubot Academy, which was developed in collaboration with NASA. GlassLab provides a model to accelerate the research, development and distribution of high-quality educational games.

Jane McGonigal, world-renowned designer of alternate reality games and New York Times best-selling author, gave a talk on what games for change will be like in the year 2024. The talk encouraged spectators to think beyond today’s generation of social, mobile, and quest-based games.

Noah Falstein, Chief Game Designer for Google, spoke about the ecosystem of game development, including new technology, research, hardware, and business models that are all causing disruption and their significant implications for Games for Change.

In a talk called State of the Indie + State of the Industry, Zach Gage, game designer, and Erik Huey, Senior Vice President of Government Affairs, Entertainment Software Association, highlighted the current realities and trends in the game creation world with a focus on indie gaming.

In a session by Pontus Westerberg, Digital Projects Officer from UN-Habitat, Pontus explained the process and benefits of using Minecraft in building projects, giving examples from Kenya, Nepal, Sweden and Haiti. In 2012, UN-Habitat, the United Nations programme for sustainable towns and cities, and Mojang, the makers of Minecraft, entered into an innovative partnership. Through the partnership, named Block by Block, UN-Habitat uses Minecraft to involve citizens, particularly young people, in the planning and design of quality public spaces worldwide.

Abby Speight, Senior Product Manager of, moderated a session called “Designing for Impact: How Commercial Games Are a Platform for Engaging Players in Social Causes.” The discussion featured experienced game designers who have proven that the right balance among competing priorities in commercial games can lead to impact in the real world without sacrificing gameplay or business outcomes.

Dr. Adam Gazzaley, neuroscientist at the University of California at San Francisco (UCSF), shared a vision of the future in which video games are used as an underlying engine to enhance our brain’s information processing systems, thus reducing our reliance on non-specific drugs to treat neurological and psychiatric conditions and allowing us to better target our educational efforts.

Tomorrow marks the second day of the three day-long Games for Change Festival. A full schedule of the tomorrow’s events, including panel/keynote topics can be found here.