And the Winner Is..

This post is part of a continuing series on game-based learning in connection to the Games For Change Festival.

In an environment where innovators strive to make and utilize games to impact real world changes, there are always some games and some people who set themselves apart as exemplary. The Games for Change award winners were announced and the big winner was Walden, a game which is uniquely a type of anti-achievement game. The game, much like Thoreau’s book, challenges the player to spurn the frenetic pace of society and escape and live simply. It’s a game that is antithetical to the basic nature of games with no standard rules or scoreboards. It is nature and story and an impetus to seek truth above achievements. The player may ultimately find them learning, like Thoreau,…

“that if one advances confidently in the direction of their dreams, and endeavors to live the life which they have imagined, they will meet with a success unexpected in common hours.”

A full list of award winners
• Best Gameplay: Tracking Ida – This is an alternate reality game (think mystery party meets escape the room) based on Ida B. Wells’ crusade against lynching.
• Most Innovative: Everything – Try to imagine the ability to transfer your consciousness to any object in the universe and then imagine that in that mystical sandbox the universe responds.
• Most Significant Impact: Walden, A Game
• Best Learning Game: DragonBox BIG Numbers – I got wrapped up in a game meant for young children just learning numeracy. That is why the DragonBox series is my go-to example of a good game where the play is the learning and not just the animated flash cards of older games.
• Vanguard Award: Constance Steinkuehler is an American professor of education and game-based learning at the University of California–Irvine whose research on and advocacy for game-based learning has been powerful. She is also a founding fellow of the Games+Learning+Society and was a student of the renowned researcher James Paul Gee. She is speaker on whom my 10 Important Research Findings on Games in Education post is based.
Bernie DekovenLifetime of Play Award: Bernie DeKoven – The man known a Major Fun who said “play is useful because it’s useless” is a game designer the author of The Well Played Game. He’s also a personal hero of mine.
• G4C + Mashable People’s Choice Award: At Play in the Cosmos – In an effort to improve scientific literacy in a time where science and facts have become bywords to many, this game takes you on a journey to accomplish missions through space and time.
• Game of the Year: Walden, A Game

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These games and people illustrate what Bernie DeKoven has preached for decades. We must seek coliberation and enjoy playing together. We should play not just in search of victory but for the pleasure of meshing with your team and being your best together. That is true in games and in life. In the midst of the chaos and struggle that impactful games seek to affect, we sometimes need to remember that the ability to escape through a game is in itself a worthwhile change.

Fun and playing together is itself gift enough.

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