From July 14 to 21, 2023, the Games For Change Festival 2023 took place in New York, NY in the United States. I was lucky enough to attend in person.
While the festival was mainly split between the New York Times Center and Microsoft’s offices, the awards ceremony took place at the former.
It was presented by the renowned Andrea Rene, producer and presenter for numerous technology and video game brands such as Xbox, Nintendo, Square Enix and 2K games. She also runs the “What’s Good Games” podcast.
The aim of the ceremony was to celebrate and reward games or interactive experiences that attempt to have a beneficial social impact. It was also to highlight those productions that attempt to create discussions around social change or raise awareness of injustices and climate changes.
Games for Change President Susanna Pollack said: “ This year, we were astounded and inspired by the global creativity and innovation in all of our Award nominees.
We’re thrilled to honor ‘Endling: Extinction is Forever’ by Herobeat Studios as our Game of the Year. This game confronts us with the harsh realities of environmental degradation, encourages critical conversations about conservation, and exemplifies the transformative power of games as catalysts for social change. “
Without further ado, here are the award winners, with descriptions from the official press release.
2023 Games for Change Award Winners and Honorees:
Industry Leadership – The LEGO Group
The LEGO Group was announced as the Industry Leadership Award Recipient. Their unmatched dedication to play in both physical and digital realms and their outstanding efforts in online safety, creativity, collaboration, and responsible digital citizenship, solidify their position as exemplary industry leaders.
“It’s truly an honor to be recognized by Games for Change in its Industry Leadership category for our work helping provide engaging, immersive, and creatively rich digital experiences for kids that are grounded in the highest safety standards,” said Carolina Giuga, Senior Director at The LEGO Group. “We believe that, as an industry, we are moving in the right direction but there is still more work to do to ensure the builders of tomorrow can reach their creative potential in digital environments that are safe by design, and we look forward to continuing our work with a variety of partners to help realize that vision.”
Hall of Change Award – Alan Gershenfeld
Games for Change introduced the G4C Hall of Change Award and proudly recognized Alan Gershenfeld as the inaugural recipient. The Hall of Change Award celebrates an outstanding individual who has dedicated their career to advancing the field of impact games. As the first Chairperson of Games for Change and Co-Founder/President of E-Line Media, Gershenfeld has made significant contributions to the industry by seamlessly merging technology, media, and social impact through collaborations with renowned organizations such as the Gates Foundation, MacArthur Foundation, USAID, DARPA, and Google.
“Alan Gershenfeld has distinguished himself through remarkable dedication, innovative leadership, and pioneering integration of gaming, technology, and social impact,” said Pollack. “He is a trailblazer and an invaluable ally in our mission to change the way we play and learn. His recognition as the first-ever Hall of Change recipient is a testament to his extraordinary contributions and vision.”
Game of the Year, Most Significant Impact – Endling: Extinction is Forever (Herobeat Studios)
In “Endling: Extinction is Forever,” the last mother fox on Earth faces the daunting task of ensuring the survival of her cubs in a ruthless world on the brink of self-destruction. She must guide, protect, and save her offspring while never forgetting the irreversible nature of extinction.
Most Innovative – Terra Nil (Free Lives)
“Terra Nil” is an intricate environmental strategy game that revolves around transforming a desolate wasteland into a thriving and balanced ecosystem. Its players embark on a mission to revive a lifeless world by purifying soil, cleansing oceans, planting trees, reintroducing wildlife, and leaving behind no trace of their efforts.
Best Narrative – Gerda: A Flame In Winter (Bird Island [ex-PortaPlay])
In “Gerda: A Flame In Winter,” players assume the role of Gerda, whose tranquil existence is upended by the tumultuous events of World War II, which cast their shadow upon her Danish village. This intimate narrative RPG-lite experience draws inspiration from real-life events and allows players to choose their path, actions, and alliances as Gerda navigates through the occupation.
Best Student Game – (val)iant: or, val’s guide to having a broken vag (Cactus Studio)
“(val)iant: or, val’s guide to having a broken vag” is a browser-based, zine-inspired game that utilizes simple and intuitive mechanics to tell a story about bodies, relationships, and sex education. Players embody the nonbinary college student Val, who grapples with vaginismus. The game delves into the societal aspects of sexual education and how individuals learn or fail to learn about sex.
Best Learning Game – Go Nisha Go™: My Life My Choice (Howard Delafield International, LLP)
“Go Nisha Go™: My Life My Choice” empowers young girls to make informed decisions regarding their sexual and reproductive health. Through the simulation of decision outcomes, the game enables girls to shape their futures confidently. Extensively researched and co-designed with girls aged 15 and above in India, this game aims to educate and empower.
Best XR4C Experience – Body of Mine VR (Cameron Kostopoulos)
“Body of Mine VR” merges immersive technology with real interviews of transgender individuals. By utilizing full-body tracking, the experience allows users to fully embody another gender, engage with their own skin, explore trans stories, experiment with gender expression through guided movements, and experience dysphoria in a secure and immersive environment.
Best Health Game – Luna’s Light (ImpactVR)
“Luna’s Light” takes players on an enchanting adventure through a fantasy realm where they wield an enchanted bow. The bow can be used for shooting, while additional upgrades like the rope arrow enable players to bridge gaps. This experience provides a delightful way to undergo rehabilitation in the comfort of one’s own home.
Best Civics Game – Cat Park (Tilt)
“Cat Park” is a free online visual novel that educates players about common tactics and techniques of online manipulation. Based on inoculation theory, the game is designed as a psychological “vaccine” that actively builds cognitive resistance against online manipulation.
Best Gameplay – I Was a Teenage Exocolonist (Northway Games)
“I Was a Teenage Exocolonist” is a sci-fi narrative RPG featuring card-based battles. As players embark on a journey to explore a hostile alien planet, they must navigate the challenges of growing up and finding love. The choices and skills acquired over ten years will shape the character’s life and the colony’s survival.
Best Board or Tabletop Game for Impact – SHASN: AZADI (Abhishek Lamba and Zain Memon for Memesys Games)
“SHASN: AZADI” is a semi-cooperative political strategy board game where players play as revolutionaries, trying to free their country from the grips of a tyrannical imperial power. If they succeed, only one will emerge as the leader of the new nation.
Other Special Recognitions
In addition to the above recognition, the Games for Change Award ceremony recognized Grace Collins as the 2023 Vanguard recipient, Benjamin “DrLupo” Lupo as the Giving Award recipient, and “Destiny 2” and Bungie as the Accessibility Award recipient. The complete list of winners and nominees can be found here.
About Games for Change
Since 2004, Games for Change (G4C) has been empowering game creators and innovators to drive real-world change, using games and immersive media 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 The LEGO Group
The LEGO Group’s mission is to inspire and develop the builders of tomorrow through the power of play. The LEGO System in Play, with its foundation in LEGO bricks, allows children and fans to build and rebuild anything they can imagine. The LEGO Group was founded in Billund, Denmark in 1932 by Ole Kirk Kristiansen, its name derived from the two Danish words Leg Godt, which mean “Play Well.”
Today, the LEGO Group remains a family-owned company headquartered in Billund. Its products are now sold in more than 130 countries worldwide. For more information: www.LEGO.com
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