Keynote Speech: Games For Change - Jam Sonic

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Keynote Speech: Games For Change


Where did the time to go? Here in Pittsburgh, it’s clear that summer is over and fall is upon us. The summer was such a great time for Jam Sonic because we got a chance to travel to the east coast, west coast, down south and back. However, now that we are settled for the fall, there is no better time to start reflecting on our summer highlights starting with Game’s For Change.

June 10, I had the honor of giving the keynote address for the Game’s For Change Student Challenge. Games For Change is a non-profit organization dedicated to using games as a vehicle for social change. High school and middle school students competed in the Student Challenge to create games based on one of two themes: Climate Change or Immigrant Voices.

Games4Change_2The event was held here in downtown Pittsburgh at the Heinz History Center, and it was a joy to see the center filled with VR units, laptops, controllers, and keyboards.  The student teams typically consisted of a programmer, an artist, and a sound designer. However, there were some games crafted entirely by one student. Genres ranged from platformers where you navigated a pixelated earth ravaged by climate change to resource management games. The grand winner of the challenge, however, was from the Immigrant Voices category. The winner, “Italian Immigrant Voices”, was a text-based game featuring real documents and photographs from Italian-American History. The documents were gathered from a local Italian-American Heritage society in Pittsburgh. They integrated these documents and photos into the game’s storyline and visuals with great results.


I remember as a kid reading a book about game programming using BASIC. I enjoyed the text-based games you could make with BASIC, but I always dreamed about making games like I played on the NES. At that time, the resources and technology weren’t as sophisticated and affordable as they are now, so seeing these students have such an opportunity is amazing.  It’s also great seeing the creation side of gaming as being used as a vehicle for self-expression. Congratulations to all the students who participated in the event.