Friday, April 15, 2016

Sharing the Games: Games for Change and Others

In the last four years, I’ve presented on a few serious games in crowdsourcng research solutions to disease, and oversaw the development and tracking of games that serve compliance training in a government organization.

I’ve also participated in game nights where faculty and students were invited to sample various games and discuss their value. I also spent some time with middle school bloggers who researched games they could place in their particular blog topics, wondering if more people would visit their blog to play the game there, or if we should have another after-school enrichment course where students could create and play each other’s games. In other conversations with colleagues, we’ve talked about games for decision-making based on fault-tree models—games that give students experience with coming to terms in those sticky social situations students grapple with. And games that are more than drill for learning another language.

Somewhere in my ongoing perusal of Twitter offerings, I noted a mention of Save the Parks, a game to ultimately encourage volunteerism in National Parks. This was my gateway introduction to an non-profit group called Games for Change. After going to the site and playing some of the games, I not only shared the news about them with others, I’m on my way to this April 18th event hosted by the non-profit Games for Change (

I’ve been sharing the site with others from varying programs for the potential of the games: Upward Bound is a nationally funded program to support high school completion and entry into post-secondary through colleges. I believe in their transformative potential, and I have volunteered to do Saturday activities with them. I told them about Spent (, and I told them about That’s Your Right ( Given the financial insecurity of some their families face, and given civic education for new immigrants and upcoming citizens, they were excited to look at both. When discussing what games they might recommend to the students, we also talked about how it might be fun for the students to choose which games to play and review, and then present a panel to their peers as a program activity. 

I’ve also shared one of the games called Spent ( with a program called Gateway, one for displaced women and men, where “Housing, childcare, and transportation” are “a trifecta” for survival, according tot the program’s director. Having played the game, I totally get it—even though I ended the game a month’s survival with $43 to the good, I realized I never bought TP and found myself asking if I had lifted it from public bathrooms. For participants from households who regularly face financial despair and homelessness, placing the circumstances in a game format can depersonalize it enough to develop financial management skills around those tough choices.

Another Game that caught my attention also was Beyond Eyes—it’s a natural for anyone hoping to create awareness related to disabilities: work of Alice Brouhard to research and adapt apps to support the independence of those with disabilities certainly plays a role in this awareness. For this game players aid a young blind girl on a journey. Her blindness is the result of an accident with fireworks. It is not only a way to experience someone else’s limitations that are out of their control, it is the way to practice compassion.

Games fall under the category of immersive learning. Playing and debriefing what players experience offer great value in influencing their/our own realities. If a goal of a game is to win, in these games the winning involves learning strategies that will make a better existence at many levels. I find myself being a real town crier about getting people to this site to view the variety of experiences offered in the 137 games there and playing some. The games are indexed by age or types like civics, health, and poverty. Players are invited to sign up to post game reviews. Resources are provided to support game development. The site is Rich, Rich, Rich. Go play. It’s your opportunity to become the change or the change agent.