Games for Change: using games for social change, now down under

I’ve long been an advocate that computers games can do good. My partner tells me that’s just a justification for playing computer games with the kids; but if so it’s a great justification. So I’m torn by the upcoming Games for Change conference being held in Melbourne. On the one hand the program looks absolutely brilliant; on the other, it’s not in Sydney.

Games for Change is an organisation that was set up in the USA a few years ago and dedicated to using digital games for social change. For those not certain what that might mean, a wander about the games on their website will provide a pretty clear idea. Some examples include helping the families of veterans deal with post traumatic stress disorder, showing how to collaborate with strangers, and learning financial literacy while managing a team of racing squirrels.

RMIT University’s GEELab is now the licence-holder for Games for Change Australia-New Zealand, and they are “partnering with innovative organisations … to support the growing interest in digital games, game thinking and play and to showcase how games can be used to deliver positive social outcomes in our communities”. In other words showing how games can be used as tools for good.

Games for Change Australia-New Zealand are holding a two-day conference in mid-November with a range of local and international speakers. Topics range from using games to teach teachers (actually this one is about the “gamification of teacher professional learning” but I can’t bring myself to use the word “gamification” outside of quotation marks), to using games to engage kids with Asperger’s, to how virtual games can change the real world. There are some absolutely fascinating topics going to be covered. The organisers have also teamed up with the City of Melbourne to provide some real-world problems which the conference can address – so it’s not all just theory.

There is so much good that can be done by recognising that kids and adults like playing games and then channeling that energy for a positive outcome. My only hesitation is that I firmly believe you can extract value from most games, they don’t have to be specifically designed to have a worthy message. But, hey, I’m quibbling now simply because I’m jealous – because this is not happening in Sydney.

For full details on Games for Change Australia-New Zealand and on the two-day festival you should proceed to www.gamesforchange.org.au.

See also: Killing Orcs with the KidsCyber Detective Teaches Digital Citizenship, Gaming for Good with The Lab

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