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Devin D. Thorpe

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Games For Change Announces The First “VR For Change” Summit As Part Of Its 14th Annual Games For Change Festival

Three Day Festival to Feature Keynote Presentations by Megan Smith, (former White House Chief Technology Officer); Gabo Arora, (Creative Director & Senior Advisor at the United Nations); Luke Crane, (Head of Games at Kickstarter) and Anjali Bhimani, (Actress/voice of Symmetra in “Overwatch” and Nisha in “Fallout: 4”)

Tickets Currently on Sale via

Press Release – (NEW YORK, NY) April 27, 2017Games for Change, the leading global advocate for the power of games as drivers of social impact, today announced the programming for its 14th Annual Games for Change Festival, with an expanded focus on virtual reality with their first VR for Change Summit. The Festival will take place from July 31-August 2, 2017, at Parsons School of Design at The New School in New York City.

The first of its kind, the VR for Change Summit will focus on advancing virtual technologies for positive social change, bringing together developers, artists, storytellers, journalists, researchers, activists and policymakers for dialogue, connections and debates focused on new initiatives to advance the field. Erik Martin, former Policy Advisor at White House Office of Science and Technology Policy under the Obama Administration, is the VR Summit’s curator.

“With over a decade of experience bringing together the gaming for social impact community and having established partnerships and credibility with nonprofits, foundations and government across a broad spectrum of issue areas, Games for Change is uniquely positioned to convene this emerging community,” said Susanna Pollack, President of Games for Change. “Very little has been done to directly bring together the VR and social impact community, and organizations that are creating compelling VR experiences and tools to advance their cause-oriented missions have few opportunities to connect and engage in focused and relevant conversations. We are excited to create this new platform where the VR community can finally come together for good.”

“The state of VR technologies today presents an opportunity to affect positive social change in radically new ways,” said Erik Martin, former Policy Advisor at White House Office of Science and Technology Policy under the Obama Administration. “The emerging landscape of VR technology, such as new headsets and mobile capabilities, as well as augmented reality, are making new kinds of media content and storytelling techniques possible to engage people with critical issues and causes. We are excited to grow the community and amplify impact with the VR for Change Summit.”

The VR for Change Summit will drive pioneering discussions focused on the most exciting technology and experiences being built with VR and ways to support and grow a VR for Change community, with an emphasis on diversity throughout all programming. The Summit will build on Games for Change’s community-sourced model, providing opportunities for curated presentations and discussions, as well as demos, networking, and awards with topical themes around a few critical societal challenges.

Notable speakers for the VR for Change Summit include:

  • A keynote by Megan Smith, the third White House Chief Technology Officer of the United States (U.S. CTO), who will be sharing a vision for how VR and AR technologies could empower people, improve civic engagement and create social change, sharing her experiences and stories as U.S. CTO in the Obama Administration.
  • Dawn Laguens, Executive Vice President of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, will illustrate that use of virtual reality and innovative apps have impacted empathy and continue to revolutionize the way people access reproductive health care.
  • Gabo Arora, Creative Director & Senior Advisor at the United Nations, is the founder of, the United Nations’ virtual reality lab. He has directed and produced a series of pioneering, and widely acclaimed, virtual reality documentaries focusing on vulnerable populations in crisis: “Clouds Over Sidra,” “Waves of Grace,” and “My Mother’s Wing.”
  • Ryan and Amy Green, founders of Numinous Games and the creator of award-winning autobiographical game, “That Dragon Cancer,” about their son who was diagnosed with cancer at 12-months old. They will discuss the game’s new VR experience.
  • Aldis Sipolins, Head of Virtual Reality and Game Design, IBM, will discuss why VR is good for science and give an overview of presence and ecological validity in psychological research.

In addition, programming for the VR for Change Summit will include:

  • The U.S. Department of Education EdSim Challenge winners will be featured. This challenge calls upon the VR, video game and edtech communities to submit concepts for VR and AR immersive simulations that strengthen students’ technical skills, preparing them for the 21st century workforce.
  • Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) Student Game – Each year Games for Change challenges CMU students from the Entertainment Technology Center to design a game to be played at the annual Festival. This year’s game will be a live crowd-gaming experience using virtual reality to explore competitive social media.
  • VR Brain Jam – On Friday, July 28th – Sunday, July 30th, Games for Change will host an invitation only event, the VR and Neuroscience Game Jam. It will pair neuroscience experts with game developer teams and charge them with exploring the intersection of their domains.

The Games for Change Festival will once again feature three focused tracks: Games for Learning, Neurogaming & Health and Civics & Social Issues, to highlight the impact that games are having in these major sectors and beyond entertainment. Each track will feature Keynote presentations from:

Madeline Di Nonno, CEO of the Geena Davis Institute; Luke Crane, Head of Games at Kickstarter; Alan Lewis, Vice President of Corporate Communications and Public Affairs at Take-Two Interactive Software; Anjali Bhimani, Actress/voice of Symmetra in “Overwatch” and Nisha in “Fallout: 4”; Louise Dubé, Executive Director of iCivics.

TRACK 1: Civics & Social Issues: The ability of games to inspire empathy and understanding make them a powerful tool for bringing people together and bridging gaps between perspectives. This track will highlight the gaming medium’s ability to engage with contemporary concerns regarding social justice and responsible citizenship.

Speakers Include: Tracy Fullerton, USC Game Innovation Labor; Paolo Pedercini, Professor at Carnegie Mellon University; Colleen Macklin, Associate Professor at Parsons School of Design; Mary Flanagan, Director of Tiltfactor Lab at Dartmouth College; Austin Walker, Editor-in-Chief of Waypoint, Vice’s gaming site; Nicole Rustad, Former Corporate Citizenship Program Manager at Disney.

TRACK 2: Neurogaming & Health: Advances in science and technology enable innovative collaborations between researchers and game makers to produce games with remarkable, measurable outcomes. Festival attendees will be able to take a deep dive into the interactive experiences that aim to improve our brains and bodies.

Speakers include: Luc St-Onge, Associate Producer at Ubisoft; Joseph Koziak, CEO of Amblyotech; Moran Cerf, TED Speaker, Neuroscientist and Behavioral Economist; Attila Szantner, Co-founder of Massively Multiplayer Online Science; Hugo Spiers, Neuroscientist; David Miller, Program Officer at the NIH; Seth Cooper of Fold It; Wolfgang Kampbartold, VP of International Marketing Communications at Deutsche Telekom.

TRACK 3: Games for Learning: The 3rd annual Games for Learning Summit will explore how games are transforming education. Festival attendees will have the opportunity to hear from emerging leaders in game-based learning and join in workshops.

Speakers include: Constance Steinkuehler, Professor at University of California Irvine; Ingrid Simone, Executive Editor of TocaBoca Magazine; Deborah Quazzo, Co-Founder and Managing Partner of GSV Acceleration; David Edery, CEO of Spry Fox; Neal Shenoy, CEO of Speakaboos; Nicole Neal, CEO of Noodle Markets; Jane Robinson, CFO of First Book.

Other Notable Sessions include Minecraft Game Jam; a screening of the film Gaming in the Real World; Ad Council + National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) Challenge; Games for Change Student Challenge Awards program.

Additional speakers and programming information can be found on the Games for Change website. To purchase tickets, please visit

Registration includes access to the full Games for Change program on July 31st – August 2nd 2017 at Parsons School of Design. The Games for Change Festival runs daily from 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. ET.

About Games for Change

Since 2004, Games for Change (G4C) has been empowering game creators and innovators to drive real-world change, using games that help people to learn, improve their communities, and contribute to make the world a better place. G4C partners with technology and gaming companies as well as nonprofits, foundations and government agencies, to run world class events, public arcades, design challenges and youth programs. G4C supports a global community of game developers working to use games to tackle real-world challenges, from humanitarian conflicts to climate change and education.

About Parsons School of Design

Parsons School of Design is one of the world’s leading institutions for art and design education. Based in New York but active around the world, the school offers undergraduate and graduate programs in the full spectrum of art and design disciplines. Critical thinking and collaboration are at the heart of a Parsons education. Parsons graduates are leaders in their fields, with a shared commitment to creatively and critically addressing the complexities of life in the 21st century.

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