This post was written by Gayathri and Jesse. Images courtesy of Games4Change Europe.
The Games4Change Europe festival is held annually in Paris, usually in June. It’s a great opportunity to meet others working in the field, and of course a chance to present our own work.
We gave our presentation on Friday morning, as a joint talk between Gayathri, Leïla, and Jesse.
In the hopes of making the talk more interesting, we took a chance on adapting one of our prototypes to make it playable during the presentation. We really should have tested it out more, though, or chosen volunteers ahead of time. We ended up rushing the volunteers, so that the audience didn’t get a good chance to understand how the game was supposed to work.
We had great success making contacts at the festival.
Gayathri had an interesting conversation with Marie Gillespie, a Professor of Sociology at the Open University, that widened her perspective. She urged us to think in the perspective of the user and raised the question of “are people willing to let games change the way they think”? We think this is a very important question to ask, because a lot of our game design depended on the fact that people would be willing to play such a game. Maybe, for the games to be effective, the message that we are trying to convey must be more subtle…
This thought was later reinforced by an insightful conversation with a TJ Matthews, a PhD student in pro-social gaming. He was pointing out some very good research and games from Tiltfactor. In particular, he quoted research based on the games ZombiePox and Buffalo where it was proved that players are more receptive to the actual message of social change when the game does not advocate the message openly or obviously.
Later in the conference, TiltFactor was mentioned again. This time by Prof. Scot Osterweil, the creative Director of MIT’s education arcade and Learning Games Network. He introduced us to another game from TiltFactor titled Awkward Moments at Work.
The last half-day of the conference was devoted to workshops. Each of us went to a different one.
Jesse: I participated in the “The Brain Architecture Game” session run by Marientina Gotsis from USC. The workshop was based on a game that she designed in cooperation with neuroresearchers. Each team builds a “brain architecture” out of pipe cleaners and drinking straws. Pipe cleaners are flexible and tend to bend easily, which makes them hard to build with. But by putting one inside a drinking straw, it can hold much more weight. At the beginning of the game, you roll the dice to see what kind of situation you are endowed with. Some teams got much luckier than us in terms of their genetics and early childhood. Our team was punished by malnutrition and negligence. These early handicaps proved to have compounding effects that weakened our structure. Lucky for us, we had rolled high on “social support” – essentially friends or extended family that could take care of us. In the game, this translates to a few extra straws that we used as soon as necessary to combat the random bad events that occurred. Overall, I found there were a number of simple but well-chosen rules that made the game succeed both in terms of fun and in teaching the realities of brain health through metaphor.
In conclusion, it was an excellent event, and we’re looking forward to doing more with with Games4Change Europe in the future!