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GameGeex - Can your video game idea change the world? The Hispanic Heritage Foundation is giving 20 young video game developers the chance to change their community (and the world) through gaming.

Update: The submission deadline has been extended until November 1, 2013 with the DC trip scheduled December 4-6, 2013. For more information and to apply, visit http://loftinnovation.org/.

Original article:

The Hispanic Heritage Foundation’s Leaders on the Fast Track (LOFT) program announced last month the Video Game Innovation Fellowship, aimed at providing minority youths the opportunity to affect social change through video game development. Through partnership with the Entertainment Software Association and other organizations, LOFT’s Innovation Fellowship will award development grants to 20 minority youths (ages 16-24) whose video game concepts provide answers to the issues facing minority communities.

Though the applicants will find their concepts judged on potential community impact, the focus of the fellowship is the creator. “This program is an embodiment to our tag line of ‘helping a young leader help thousands more’ except in this case it can be millions more,” says HHF president and CEO Jose Antonio Tijerino. The fellowship’s intent is to provide young innovators with the practical skills sought in an industry where Native Americans, African Americans, Hispanic/Latinos, and women are underrepresented.

LOFT seeks concepts that are clear in the issue they’re addressing and include a social component for empowering the users to bring about change. Priority will also be given to creators who plan methods of measuring the social change achieved and especially to developers who have their project started, though they’re open to passionate creators still in the idea stage as well.

Video games as a medium for social and scientific advancement are recently coming more into the public eye. In Britain, researchers faced with sequencing genetic data to save an estimated 80 million ash trees from deadly disease found that humans could recognize genetic patterns far quicker than a computer. Enter Fraxinus, a pattern-solving social app that’s not only insanely addictive fun but contributes to research. Top players will be credited on research articles borne from the project, and the research-as-game concept will be published in open-source format for future researchers to utilize.

Seeds of social change are planted at a personal level by independent developers like Autumn Nicole Bradley, who uses her talents for events such as June’s Creative Conflict Game Jam. A game jam is a flash competition for game designers, developers, and artists to create collaboratively or alone. In a 24-48 hour period, the contestants are given a theme around which they must design and execute a fully-functional interactive game. Bradley’s Creative Conflict theme,  titled “Your Enemies Don’t Have to Die For You to Win”, addressed alternatives to violence and killing as conflict resolution. Through an RPG format, her text-based game Player 2 delves deep into the player’s interpersonal conflicts and directs all parties towards an actionable resolution. Bradley’s simple game has garnered a great deal of interest as it fulfills an obvious need: a method of acknowledging personal injury and planning closure.

Lydia Neon's Player 2

The focus on societal change through video games and especially the LOFT Innovation Fellowship take on an extra measure of importance and hope for me. I often limit the video games my children play not because of violence but for the societal messages I refuse to encourage: as Latinos and living in a single-parent household, my children face stigma that limits their potential in the eyes of others. In a digital world where anything should be possible, characters like us are most often the victims, thugs, and byproducts of a virtual society that labels us disposable for the sake of advancing plot. I can teach my children not to point a gun at someone’s head in the real world; I cannot as easily fight the subtle and pervasive idea that some people are born to play only one role.

Do you share the same concerns and have an incredible video game idea that addresses those? The LOFT Innovation Fellowship is accepting applications until October 1, 2013. The Fellows chosen will be given the opportunity to present their concepts to influencers in Washington, D.C., in October and awarded grants to begin development. The Entertainment Software Association will be assisting the Fellows with the game development process. For more information and to apply, visit http://loftinnovation.org/ before October 1. Remember that applicants must be between 16-24 years old and a member of a minority group. For the rest of us, the comment section is open--with this topic, the only bad discussion is no discussion.

9 Comments for this post.
Like 4 Disike 0

Nice article!

Games without guns...sounds good to me...there's place for that...

 


Like 3 Disike 0

Have you heard of the Half the Sky Movement? http://www.halftheskymovement.org/

A new Facebook adventure that raises awareness & funds to empower women & girls across the world. Available in English and French for desktop/laptop computers only. https://www.facebook.com/HalftheGame


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I had an amazing time talking with Autumn about her games last week and what inspired the game jam. One of the points I hadn't considered was how so many games limit the player's interaction with the game world to collision detection mechanics. She has a lot of very awesome suggestions to keep developers from boxing themselves into violent plots like that. 

I mean, of course this isn't all about video game violence, but it's kind of caught up in all this--that "disposable character" mentality.


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Ok going to be reading a while on the Half the Sky Movement now, thanks!! 

Though one thing I did notice on their "About" page, in the "Games for Change" section, the line "Unlike the commercial gaming industry, Games for Change aims to leverage entertainment and engagement for social good" irks me. Creating a game for profit and creating it for social good are not mutually exclusive. Not everyone has the ability to exist on donations and grants, and getting an idea out in a form that also keeps your kids fed is sometimes necessary.


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An excellent point. "Fair Trade" coffee isn't free and neither is buying vegetable baskets from a local farmer...but it's money well spent and everybody is happy. 


Like 4 Disike 0

Exactly-- profit != evil. I'd say a lot is good when you can pay someone fairly for their hard work; you both get to enjoy a good deal. There's that whole "equal exchange of energy" thing that I feel so often gets abused and misinterpreted as "that means I don't have to pay you, I just have to spend time enjoying what you gave me."


[Mandifesto] @ 1:53:11 PM Sep 3, 2013
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I think the issue is that people confuse the concept of Serious Games with games for social good.  The first group of games are creative initiatives -- usually from an academic or social cause organization -- that work to affect change through gaming.  The work of Jane McGonigal comes to mind, especially Super Better.  

Improving the world through games though doesn't mean it has to be a purely academic focus.  As you say, developers need to eat too, and even those who work at nonprofits still draw a paycheck.


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Well I think violence is necessary. Most games these days are incredibly dynamic and have a ton of conflict that puts the main character in a hero role where they must fight the evil to advance. But of course, with this mechanic, there is 'necessary violence' and a reason for me to eliminate all those who oppose the greater good. I guess most of this stuff to me are like what were comics to a kid in the 80s or sci-fi sitcoms from the 60s.

I've been playing violent video games since I was around 8 most of which taught me teamwork and good morales lol. The amount of cooperation required to capture that darn flag in Halo is second to none XD, as in CoD, Gears, etc. Games like Knight of the Old Republic made me disgusted as to what would happen if the bad guy won so I knew I had to make the right decisions for the galaxy to remain awesome.

As for LOFT, I like what they're doing. CAn't wait to see what game concepts win because at the moment, I can't think of a concept myself, heh.


Like 1 Disike 0

Violence isn't necessary. It's part of the creative toolbox, but it's only necessitated by the need of the narrative you are in. You can make games that teach morality and cooperation without the need of violence.

I still play games with violence and I enjoy them more when their is a smart story behind them. With that said I also do enjoy a mindless deathmatch now and then, I'll never leave my Doom days behind.


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