Games For Change Recap: Top Five Takeaways

Posted June 10, 2010

Pete and I attended the Games for Change festival in New York City, which continues to grow in breadth and participation each year. The conference discusses ways that games can make positive social change and is run by the Games for Change non-profit organization, and I have been watching it grow since its inception in 2005. This year, the event featured speakers such as the Honorable Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, Jaron Lanier of Microsoft Research, artist Ze Frank, and Professor James Paul Gee.

In this blog post, I describe five key takeaways from the event. Pete also posted his five as well.

In no particular order, my five are:

TRANSMEDIA STORYTELLING. We need to think about how all different media can come together seamlessly to tell a story that is greater than the sum of its parts. This requires new types of producers and designers, who can think holistically about an overall vision, and understand how all the parts come together fluidly to create a compelling experience for a user.

FROM STEM TO STEAM. STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) needs to be updated to include the arts. We need to think about how science informs art and vice versa. To be good designers of the future, we need to be trained in questions of design and art, as well as the practices of STEM.

MASTERY. Mastery does not equal engagement in an experience. You do not want your user to master an experience right away – otherwise they may become bored, and will likely stop participating. But, you don't want them to be constantly overwhelmed with new information either. Appropriate scaffolding is needed to get users into an experience. And once they are there, opening up new avenues of exploration at the right moments will keep your users coming back for more.

PARTICIPATION. Help kids and adults become co-creators and collaborators in the experience, so they feel connected and part of the design process. By enabling users to include their values, interests and goals in the process, they will feel they have a stake in the design. This emulates citizenship on many levels.

AUTHENTICITY OF ACTION. If you want your experience to spur social action, then the activities you do in that experience should be authentic to that action. For example, if you want your participants to understand gerrymandering, then have them redistrict a location (link to redistricting game). If you want people to build houses for the poor, then they should co-create virtual houses with other players to understand how teams can work together to construct real world habitats.

Michelle Mullineaux

Michelle is an experienced strategist, marketer, business developer and change agent. She joined ESI in 2004 and is charged with building and implementing successful business development and marketing strategies for the firm. She also serves on the Leadership Team, which guides and supports ESI’s strategic growth across all disciplines and functions.

Michelle is recognized as an expert and leading advocate for public interest design, an evolving practice area that operates at the intersection of design, service, sustainability and social impact. She is one of the co-founders and an active board member of desigNYC, a nonprofit with the mission of improving the lives of New Yorkers through the power of good design. She is featured in the Public Interest 100, sponsored by Autodesk, and served on both the Steering and Community Development Committees for NYCxDesign, New York’s inaugural citywide festival celebrating and promoting design of all disciplines. Prior to joining ESI, she held business development, marketing and new media strategy roles for METROPOLIS Magazine, Acoustiguide, and Christie’s. Michelle holds an MBA in Sustainable Management from the Presidio Graduate School and BS/BA degrees in Journalism and Art History from Boston University.

Join The Conversation