Games4Change. Day 3

The Games for Change Festival is coming to an end. I have travelled a couple of thousand kilometres, spend three valuable working days and pushed my annual expenditure budget to take part in this event. The big question is then was it all worth it? Am I going home with something that I would otherwise not have been able to obtain?

My answer is yes. I have learned many things, on many different levels. Even though learning is a complex process, I will point out ten reasons that made it worthwhile. Reasons that might give you a reason for going next year your self.

1/ Names of new people doing interesting work worth following – like Jesse Schell and Scott Rigby

2/ New terms – like transition game. Maybe not revolutionising our way of thinking about game, but adding an interesting twist. Just like lime in a gin tonic.

3/ New research on the good deeds of gaming – Jane McGonigal has collected a lot of research articles that under pins her arguments. We could all have found it our selves, but now we just need to tap in and learn. I am so grateful.

4/ Experiencing Professor James Paul Gee’s tour de force through 31 points that he thinks a GOOD social impact game should be able to do (I will share the 31 points with you in another post).

5/ I have learned to what extend USA government – federal and local – is interested in and already trying to tap into gaming as a resource for civic learning and engagement. Inspiring. We have to level up in Denmark.

6/ Giving me an understanding of how unique games like Urgent Evoke, World without Oil and Participatory Chinatown still are. I have experienced and heard about a lot of games for change at the festival, but none of them have been aiming at transforming gamers into social innovators in the way that the mentioned games have.

7/ Hearing Scott Rigby say, that FUN doesn’t create engagement, but NEED satisfaction (our need for feeling autonomous, competent and related) does. Interesting to think about and do more literature research on.

8/ Jesse Schell’s 7/11 points about what games are bad at and what games are good at. He told a very honest story drawing on his experience as a game developer. The points were simple but intelligent and they enable us to use gaming in the situations when it makes sense and makes a difference (see an earlier post about his 7/11 points).

9/ I have experienced that there is a big international – although dominated by the US – community of practioners and researcher interested in and working with social impact games.

10/ I have played some of the nominated games for the Games4Change awards. Awesome stuff. Take a look at ‘Fibber’ and ‘Spent’. I think they are good examples of how to get players to do some critical thinking about the political and social reality we are immersed in.



Jesse Schell, CEO of Schell Games talked about 7 things games are bad at – 11 things they are good at.


1/ Being cheap – don’t think it is free to develop games.

2/ Tricking students into learning – don’t think that you can trick students to learn thing through gaming. Gaming is a serious thing for gamers and they will soon discover your real goal with the game. Be honest.

3/Limitless exploration – you can have it, but if your budget is not limitless then you have to design within limits. So have a clear focus when you begin.

4/ Staying with in time limits – games are bad at keeping time limits. Most games invite gamers to take their time and learn at their own pace. So don’t be in a hurry.

5/ Understanding mistakes – games are good at identifying mistakes, but bad at explaining them. So for a deeper understanding a mentor/teacher is often needed.

6/ Long shelve logs – games are not books and most of them have a limited life span.

7/ Staying interesting forever – few games stay interesting forever, often gamers want to move on to new titles and new experiences.



1/ Giving the brain what it wants (a/visual progress, b/turning abstract into concrete stuff, c/full engagement – using all parts of the brain, d/ Fantasy motivation – building imaginaries that trigger emotional involvement) Suggestion – look at the game ‘Betty’s Brain’.

2/ Illustrating complex systems

3/ Keeping you in FLOW (flow is tied to the feeling of happiness and productivity)

4/ Providing new points of view – giving you the possibility to step into some else shoes and experiencing the world as they are.

5/ Authenticity – you are really there

6/ Raising Questions

7/ Creating shared experiences

8/ Independant exploration

9/ Practice challenging situations in a safe environment

10/Creating teachable situations – games don’t have to replace mentors and teacher but can help creating teachable moments. Teachable moments are when you a making a fault and the brain is annoyed and you are open to looking at what you could have done differently.

11/Giving gamers/learners ownership – we need people to stay curious and giving them influence on their own learning process is one way to do that.

These were the points of Jesse Schell. Interesting and now up for discussion.



Games for Change Festival 2012

New York, June 18-20 2012.

I am attending this amazing festival focusing on games developed to generate positive change in physical world. I am here with game developers, researchers, government representatives, ngo’s and educators. We are all here to hear about what is at the moment going on in the industry and what we can expect to come.

I am going to listen a lot to people, but I am also going to play. A lot of new games a being presented in the game arcade.

It all feel bigger, more important and more powerful being here in the nation of game play. The americans are embracing gaming in a way that I have not yet met in Denmark. This morning I have been listing to a representative of the American Federal Government talking about how they connect to the gaming industry in all levels of their task forces it is quit impressing. Gaming is part of the public strategy, outreach and communication.

Stay tuned – I will keep you up-dated over the next couple of days.

Theory on gaming and social engagement

Here are two titles on scientific articles that have caught my attention lately.
1/ Political Internet Games: Engaging an audience by Joyce Neys and Jeroen Jansz.

2/ Games for Civic Learning: A Comceptual Framework and Agenda for Research and Design by Chad Raphel et al.

In different ways they show and discus the possible positive impact of digital games on citizens social engagement. Quit interesting.

Engagement Game Lab

I have just discovered the existence of the Engagement Game Lab (EGL). The EGL studies and develops games with the purpose of enhancing civil engagement. EGL developed the award winning game Participatory Chinatown together with the city of Boston. I can only recommend you to check out their website.

Supreme Court on Gaming

Like the protected books, plays, and movies that preceded them, video games communicate ideas—and even social messages — through many familiar literary devices (such as characters, dialogue, plot, and music) and through features distinctive to the medium (such as the player’s interaction with the virtual world).

(Supreme Court of the United States, Brown, Governor of California, et al. v. Entertainment Merchants Association et al., Argued November 2, 2010—Decided June 27, 2011)

Geriatric Gaming

What does the average gamer look like to you?

Something like this?:  Video 25: Grandma plays Dead Space

The average gamer today is 37 years old and has been playing for 12 years or what is equivalent to 10.000 hours (notice that this is the same amount of hours danish children spend in public school). 42 % are women. Nearly 1/3  of all gamers are over the age of 50.(For more fact and number see:
I find these numbers interesting because they tell us that a broad spectrum of the population is using the medium, which makes it interesting to look at the democratic potentials of games. Think if it really possible to make civil engagement playful?