Dec. 7: The Future of Play: Games are changing — and changing us

A Joint Meeting of  Science Writers in New York (SWINY) and Games for Change (G4C) Meetup Group

UPDATE: We’ve added a fourth speaker, Chrise Burke,  host of “This Spartan Life” in Halo (a game) broadcast into Xbox Live. Scroll down for more details.

From PCs and Playstations to X-Boxes, smartphones, Scrabble, and Monopoly, games are everywhere. And they can be about more than just fun.

Increasingly, educators (backed by the National Science Foundation) see games and simulations as important learning tools. Others see them as a way to change social attitudes.

This raises important questions about learning/social change games:

  • Do they really teach? Can they teach about complex subjects?
  • Can they ever be as much fun as blowing up bad guys?
  • Can they change deep-rooted prejudices, or do they only work for the open-minded?
  • How does virtual learning affect real-world behavior?
  • Can games have unintended consequences?
  • If games about peace teach us to solve problems nonviolently, what do violent war games teach?
  • Will social change games become another target of the culture wars?

Fortunately, New York City — the heart of the games for learning and games for change communities — is a perfect place to look for some answers. To do this, SWINY and Games for Change have assembled a stellar panel of experts:

  • Colleen Macklin, Panelist. An Associate Professor at Parsons The New School for Design, Macklin has been a sparkplug in the NYC games-for-change community. She will discuss how to make learning fun – and deep.
  • Melanie Stegman, Panelist. As head of learning technologies at the Federation of American Scientists (FAS), Stegman is responsible for such well-known learning games as Immune Attack, which teaches high school students the biology of the immune system. She will talk about the science behind immersive learning.
  • Asi Burak, Panelist. Co-president of Games for Change, Burak has headed a commercial mobile apps company, spoken at the US Army War College, consulted for Newsweek and McCann Erickson, and created the acclaimed “PeaceMaker” and “Play the News” gaming platforms. He will discuss using games to drive social change.
  • Chris Burke (aka Damian Lacedaemion), Panelist. Burke hosts “This Spartan Life” in Halo (a game) broadcast into Xbox Live. It has won a bevy of awards, and Wired Magazine likened it to “a mash-up of The Charlie Rose Show and Doom.” The guests on his “This Spartan Life” have included:
    • Katie Salen, Professor in the Design and Technology program at Parsons The New School for Design and co-author of Rules of Play: Game Design Fundamental: discussion of games as early training for blended real/virtual life of the future
    • Bob Stein, multimedia publishing pioneer and Director of the Institute for the Future of the Book
    • Malcolm McLaren, pop culture icon: discussion of youth engagement through gameplay and mashups

    Burke will talk about using commercial game space as social/learning space, as well as the extension of game culture beyond playing games. You can check out his website at or the “This Sparten Life Trailer” at

  • Josephine Dorado, Moderator. Our moderator will introduce the world of learning and social games. She is a media artist, producer, social entrepreneur, and former Fulbright Fellow (and now Fulbright board member). Another important voice in the games-for-change community. She founded Kidz Connect, which lets young people from around the world create theatrical productions in virtual worlds. She is also a producer for This Spartan Life, a talk show inside the video game Halo.

Join us Tuesday, December 7 for a “simulating” joint SWINY-G4C session on the future of play.

Tuesday, December 7
6 to 8 p.m.

4 West 43rd Street (just west of Fifth Avenue)
Ballroom off the lobby

Free for SWINY and G4C members
$10 for non-members (payable via PayPal or by cash or check at the door)


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