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The Games for Change organization will celebrate its 20th anniversary by holding its annual summit at the United Nations in New York.
The event will take place from July 17 to July 21, with a program that includes a first-of-its-kind summit at the UN headquarters in New York City. The event, which is about the charitable organization’s mission to change the world with games, will feature a Next Gen Fest for 13-year-olds to 18-year-olds, as well as the Games and Sustainable Development Goals.
“This is our 20th anniversary for Games for Change. And to celebrate, we have expanded our programming to touch on different ways to connect with and celebrate the different audiences that we serve,” said Susanna Pollack, president of Games for Change, in an interview with GamesBeat.
The Games for Change Festival will now include an entire week of events, hosted in collaboration with the United Nations Development Programme and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). Additionally, the youth event will cap the week-long events, providing a forum for young people to explore and shape the future of video games for impact across education, civics, health, science, and more.
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“With growing evidence and excitement around the power of games and XR to transform our world, it’s clear that the Games for Change community has a role to play in advancing the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals and ensuring a healthy, peaceful, and prosperous future for future generations,” said Pollack. “The Games and SDG Summit and Next Gen Fest are exciting additions to our week-long Festival program — and will help expose more young people, policymakers and NGOs to the bold ideas, playful learning experiences, and cross-sector partnerships that the Games for Change Festival is known for.”
Pollack said the organization will also invite international chapters to come to the event in New York, as there are groups in places such as Africa and Asia Pacific and elsewhere where Games for Change chapters are getting off the ground.
“We’re going to have the first games industry event convening at the UN,” Pollack said.
The UN has a number of programs geared toward games, including Playing for the Planet, which uses games to address issues about climate change. And the UNESCO Mahatma Gandhi Institute of Education for Peace and Sustainable Development (UNESCO MGIEP) is promoting learning through video games and using games to transcend national boundaries, hone problem-solving skills, and promote empathy.
All of the programs and agencies are investigating how games can help them meet their goals, Pollack said.
“We’re talking to other UN agencies as well about helping pull this together so we can make sure we have the right people in the room.”
A big anniversary
For the anniversary, Games for Change will focus on the past, present and future of its community and what it has accomplished. There will also be a day for focusing on extended reality and predictions about the future and emerging technologies, Pollack said.
Over the past two decades, the annual Games for Change Festival has become the must-attend gathering for changemakers, developers, executives, and fans who believe in the impact of gaming and immersive media. Since then, Games for Change’s mission to drive real-world change through video games and immersive media has spread worldwide, capturing the public’s imagination, inspiring cross-sector collaboration, and sparking widespread innovation.
For the awards program, one of the new things Games for Change is adding is a boardgame and tabletop category, Pollack said.
The growing interest in the power of games and immersive media for impact from a wider array of audiences — from government and nonprofit leaders to technology and media executives, and educators and families — led to the creation of the long-imagined Next Gen Fest to engage youth in the future of impact games, and to the Games and SDG Summit to address some of the world’s most pressing challenges such as climate change.
“The climate crisis needs all hands on deck and we’re delighted to be working with Games for Change on the upcoming Summit in New York,” Sam Barratt, chief of youth, education and advocacy for UNEP, in a statement. “While it’s early days still, the Playing for the Planet initiative shows that the games industry is committed to act on the environmental agenda. We look forward to sharing the learning and insights we have gathered over the past three years and to see what more we can do together.”
The G4C Games and SDG Summit
The G4C Games & SDG Summit is the first video games industry convening at the UN. The half-day event will bring together over 150 leaders from the games industry, policy, media, non-profit sector, and others to spark dialogue, identify strategies, and explore how games and extended reality (XR) technologies like virtual and augmented reality can support key UN SDGs, including education, equality, justice, climate action, and sustainable cities and communities. The invite-only event will feature keynote speakers, case studies, panel discussions, and a games arcade.
The Next Gen Fest for Youth
The G4C Next Gen Fest is designed to educate, inspire, and empower middle and high school students to become responsible gamers, creators of impact games and XR experiences, and agents of change in their communities. The G4C Next Gen Fest will connect young people to professionals working in the gaming industry and provide exposure to careers in technology and social innovation.
During the event, students can learn digital design and coding skills, practice creative problem-solving and collaboration, and connect with a community of peers and mentors. The day-long event at the Microsoft Experience Center in New York City will bring together over 150 students for learning sessions, workshops, meet-and-greet opportunities with streamers and gaming industry executives, and more.
The initiatives for youth include creating safe online play spaces for young people, conversations around toxicity and inclusivity, game jams with Minecraft, and an esports tournament, Pollack said.
Games for Change Festival program schedule
The lineup of events taking place during the 20th Anniversary Games for Change Festival July 17-21 in New York City will include:
- G4C Games & SDG Summit (July 17): Create partnerships that activate the games and XR sector to support key UN Sustainable Development Goals at an invite-only summit for leaders across industries.
- Games for Change Festival (July 18-19): Celebrate the 20th anniversary of the world’s largest annual event dedicated to games and social impact, which draws a cross-sector community of changemakers, developers, executives, and fans from around the world.
- XR for Change Summit (July 20): Explore emerging technologies shaping the future of social innovation in the metaverse and today’s most cutting-edge immersive experiences that are unlocking new pathways for social impact.
- G4C Next Gen Fest (July 21): Youth ages 13-18 will come together to learn, create, and shape the future of video games for impact across education, civics, health, science, and more.
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