This week I've been at Games for Change. There is a reoccurring group of people at these conferences for games—more so when focused on games that fall outside the entertainment industry. There are also surprising new faces.
A person I find impressive is Tracy Fullerton from USC. Though she tends to stand in the background, her students' works shine sparkling clear. Jenova Chen who created "clouds" and "fLow" was a grad student of hers. Demoed at this conference, a work that touched me deeply, was from another pair of her students. Like our student Nick Malutama, they have created a piece on Rwanda. The game uses singing as a mechanic. Flipping a normal game procedure of the avatar being a more powerful persona than the actual player, the game puts the player in the place of those with no power. The only defense against the incomprehensible is voice. The player is a Rwandan mother trying to quiet her crying child so that both are not massacred. The only "weapon" the player has is to sing to "her" child a lullaby. Simple, graphic, stressful, touching. Here's a link: http://interactive.usc.edu/members/jantonisse/2008/01/hush.html. Researching further, I find Ian Bogost has reviewed it and appropriately names the form a vignette.
Another highlight for me at this conference was the final keynote speaker, Sandra Day O'Connor. Yes the former Supreme Court justice. She acknowledged that if anyone asked her when she retired from the court if she would be speaking at this conference today, she would have thought that it was impossible. However she is collaborating on a project to get education out to youth on our democratic system particularly in regards to the judicial system. She stated that she had come to the realization that to educate young people today, one needs to reach outside of our educational system to where they are—on computer screens. She said we need to give them the tools that enable them to recognize situations, to analyze, to provoke real thinking, and to debate and commit. Though Justice O'Connor acknowledged she does not play video games, the tool she chose to reach young people on her heart felt mission is computer games. http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/24975511/The game is expected to launch by fall. The web site is at http://www.ourcourts.org/.
Youth + games = learning. A powerful mixture, whether youth are creating or consuming. It makes it even more vital that we as adults are aware of the shift.