The Games for Change festival embraced the 'new world' of pandemics and restrictions by being fully available on a digital platform completely free for over 6,000 attendees across the globe.
This is the first time 'attending' for Many Cats but we really felt we were learning from so many people from industries that span beyond the games industry. Educators, social innovators, health care professionals and a splatter of games developers were able to come together and see the good that has been done over the last year and for the future.
The charity group AbleGamers spoke about the importance of being mindful to the wider audience in games. The biggest thing that stood out was the parallels of the current climate for a lot of people is similar to the every day of a lot of disabled people. We have to use this new found empathy from a lot of people to drive the message of doing better.
The panel of 'Simple Accessibility Practices to Extend Games' Reach' gave attendees a checklist to get them started on making their games more accessible, from visual, audio to motor considerations. The panelists included Barbara Chamberlin (Learning Games Lab), Allisyn Levy (BrainPOP), Peter Stidwell (FableVision Studios) and Matt Kaplowitz (Bridge Multimedia). All the panelists reiterate the importance of early testing and most importantly testing with a wide and diverse group of people as possible.
One of my favourite panels was 'Building for Inclusivity', the panelists; Trinidad Hermida (Niantic, Inc), Robert Williamson (Niantic, Inc), Jessica Murrey (W!CKED SAiNTS Studios) and Laura Teclemariam (Warner Bros). They really laid out the clear message of giving back and reaching those in disadvantaged and low represented groups to build them into the industry.
Other highlights included a panel on why we should be more ethical in games with a launch of an ethics pledge (http://ethicalgames.org/). A talk from Marie Graham on her work with young people who are keen to create social change and impact in healthcare. A keynote by Microsoft Accessibilty Evangelist Megan Lawerence on normalising the view of 'accessible tech' as just the next step in modern technology which ends up benefitting everybody.
Part of the festival is devoted to acknowledging some of the best games for good over the last year. Most notable were Most Significant Impact going to Sea of Solitude for it's tackling of isolation and trauma and the big winner Media Molecule's Dreams, for Most Innovative and Game of the Year. It was no surprise that Siobhan Reddy giving an insight into Dreams for one of the keynotes was watched by many, with educators and social changers learning how Dreams can be a tool for teaching children and young people more about being creative with games.
Hopefully, this format is built upon for next year to allow many people around the world driving social change in games to take part and meet like-minded individuals and groups.