Friday, June 28, 2013

The Future of This Blog

I love to write, to crystalize my thoughts, to share my research and observations, and hopefully to provide value to you, my audience. My interests are diverse and wide-ranging, though they generally all fall at the intersection of learning, innovation and social justice. In the past decade I've had fairly extensive experience with traveling, teaching, entrepreneurship, design, politics and leadership, and when I write, I draw from all of these domains.

That said, I truly want to provide value in the work that I do, and that extends to this blog. For that reason, over the next 2 months I am going to be deeply reflecting on the role this blog plays in my contribution to the wider world, and how I might change or improve it along those lines. In light of this process, in the coming months I may not post any new content. However, I will definitely post updates if I have any major news or exciting announcements that deserve broadcasting.

I welcome any suggestions for this blog or where to focus my attention generally--you can post here or message me through any number of services where I am easily found (Twitter, Facebook, and Linkedin most prominently).

Thanks for visiting!

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Games for Change: One Week Later

I had the privilege of attending the Games for Change Festival last week and working for the Festival's social media team. I attended and live tweeted many of the talks and panels, and was struck with two common threads found across the most of the discourse: games as art, and games as business.

Games as Art
This idea was probably most clearly articulated in one of the last keynotes delivered by Eric Zimmerman. In this talk, he spoke on flaws in "serious games" of design literalism. He argues that games do not need to literally depict subject matter to do justice to the subject, and that we need to trust the art of the game to produce positive results. He goes so far as to encourage thinking about games as "aesthetic objects," which would lead to a higher quality of game, and a higher quality of impact. This approach goes against the trend of trying too hard to make a "game for change." We don't make "books for change," we make "books." The good ones change the world. Games as art work the same way, though they offer unique and exciting opportunities for engagement, teaching and connecting people.

Games as Business
Several developers at the conference, perhaps the majority, are commercial game developers. To make games for change sustainable and scalable, questions more appropriate for the board room than the sandbox were evident across the festival. One of the most interesting examples of the business interest in the games for change arena was the widespread visibility of Amplify, News Corps' new education business. Amplify has 30 education games in the pipeline, had their VP of Games, Justin Leites, on one of the keynote panels, and had a prominent booth for the whole three days. Of course, "educational games" only represent one segment of the "games for change" space, but Amplify has plans to dominate this segment. Debates over whether educational games should be required by teachers or not, purchased by districts or parents, or include quizzes or "stealth assessment" dominated the debates and thinking of the Festival participants. One of the questions that remains unanswered is whether the education games marketplace can support truly good games, or if the procurement process ends up corrupting the whole idea. After all, principals and parents buy games because the games "teach"; they don't buy games for what games do best: create FUN.

What do you think? Are games art? Can games be games if they're not fun? Is there an enormous business opportunity in educational games? If so, can artistic, fun games seize this opportunity?