On June 20, 2011, former Vice President Al Gore delivered the keynote address at the "Games for Change" (G4C) festival at New York University. Games for Change
, a non-profit dedicated to supporting games that have a positive social impact, hosted the two-day festival which was streamed live and can be seen here
Mr. Gore called games "the new normal" and harped upon the great potential that they have to help educate our citizens about important issues. He then called on attendees to help him create a game to share the message of his documentary, "An Inconvenient Truth."
Many of the games mentioned in the conference had environmental themes. A Facebook game called Ecotopia
correlates actions in the game to those in the real world. For example, a tree planted in the game results in a tree being planted in real life.
Silvia Lovato, head of "PBS Kids Go! Interactive," discussed a PBS game called "Milltown" which teaches kids about early 20th century industrialization. They explained that games offered a unique opportunity to reach out to a younger demographic.
The winning game from nearly 5,000 entries in the festival's competition was an iPhone app called "Commons
," which encourages teams to report aspects of public spaces in New York City that they would like to see fixed as well as places that they enjoy. Other players vote and give feedback on their suggestions which earns them points. As you advance in the game, you unlock different parts of the city to explore.
"Gamification" is the term that was used often in the conference to describe the growing demand for educating through games. While educational games such as MathBlaster and companies such as The Learning Company
were quite popular in my childhood during the '90s, the momentum for a wide variety of games with social impact appears to be accelerating among young developers and spurred on by 21st century improvements in technology and a changing culture regarding social responsibility.
Gary White, co-founder of Water.org said, "Your life should be about finding the intersection of the world's greatest need and your greatest passion," and that's exactly what participants in Game for Change have done.