With Annenberg Foundation support, thousands of L.A. students will learn how to design video games that address pressing community issues. Partners include the National Endowment for the Arts, iThrive Games, Born This Way Foundation, Unity Technologies, and Common Sense Education.

Games for Change—the leading global advocate for the power of video games to create positive social impact—today announced their third annual Student Challenge.  The competition invites middle and high school students to learn how to create video games dealing with real-world issues. Once again, the program will be offered in public schools in New York City—and this year for the first time, in Los Angeles, too.

Games for Change supports a global community of game developers working to use games to tackle real-world challenges, from humanitarian conflicts to climate change to education and beyond.

The L.A. expansion of the Student Challenge is a product of the new Games For Change partnership with the Annenberg Foundation—part of its AnnenbergTech initiative and the Annenberg Learner program, which uses media and telecommunications to advance excellent teaching in American schools.

With the Student Challenge, Games for Change—along with its national curriculum partner Mouse and platform partner Unity—offers public school students the chance to tackle current social issues while learning digital game design, thus building 21st century technical and analytical skills. Participation in the Challenge combines education and social awareness with the excitement and fun of competition.

Each year, the Student Challenge gives the participants new game themes to spur their imagination.   Each theme is supported by non-profit and for-profit partners, who provide students with research, multimedia content, and prizes.

The 2017 themes are:

Games designed around the Kindness theme will explore how choosing kindness and compassion can transform the world. For the Wildlife Conservation theme, students will produce games focusing on   animals, ecosystems, and endangered species. News Literacy games will help players become critical consumers of media, identify so-called “fake news,” and understand digital privacy.

Twenty teachers in each city will receive ongoing support to help them conduct the Challenge program during school hours or in after-school programs.  Local technology companies and game studios will provide onsite visits, prizes, and student mentoring and career advice.

Each game entry is judged on creativity, social impact, and how it expresses and develops its chosen theme. The students compete for scholarships sponsored by Take-Two Interactive. Winners are determined by a jury made up of industry leaders, game developers, and other experts. One of the 2016-17 winners went on to win the National STEM Video Game Challenge, garnering national recognition for her game design.

“I have met many of these determined and socially-conscious students, and it’s impressive to see their passion to learn new skills and raise awareness around critical issues,” says Susanna Pollack, President of Games for Change. “It’s exciting to see this program grow, and expand to Los Angeles to reach more cities and students—including girls and students in underserved communities—and bring in major industry leaders as partners. We need a bold solution to the problems facing us today, and I believe that getting teens involved is imperative to fixing them.”

Annenberg Foundation Executive Director Cinny Kennard said, “We are thrilled to support Games for Change and their expansion in the upcoming academic year to include Los Angeles-area public schools.  This unique collaboration with our Foundation through Annenberg Learner and AnnenbergTech will help provide essential 21st century skills to middle and high school students throughout the city, while providing professional development for teachers and addressing social challenges in local communities.”

In addition to the Annenberg Foundation, Games for Change supporters include Take-Two Interactive, a games industry leader; iThrive Games; Unity Technologies, Bigglesworth Foundation; the National Endowment for the Arts; and the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs.

More than 3,000 students have participated in the Challenge program since its launch in 2015. The 2016 partners included the National Endowment for the Humanities, NOAA and GE—and the game themes students could choose from were Immigrant Stories, Climate Change, and Future Communities. Nearly 400 games were submitted, resulting in 147 finalists and 18 winners. The grand prize winners were announced onstage at the 14th annual Games for Change Festival in New York on July 31st this year.

But whether they won or not, research shows that students who participated gained much from their Games for Change experience. An assessment developed by Institute of Play and conducted in three Challenge cities, showed students made remarkable gains in six key skill sets, including collaboration, creativity, and problem solving.

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. Follow Games for Change on social media on https://www.facebook.com/gamesforchange/ and http://www.twitter.com/G4C

About the Annenberg Foundation

The Annenberg Foundation is a family foundation that provides funding and support to nonprofit organizations in the United States and globally. Since 1989, it has generously funded programs in education and youth development; arts, culture and humanities; civic and community life; health and human services; and animal services and the environment. In addition, the Foundation and its Board of Directors are directly involved in the community with innovative projects that further its mission of advancing a better tomorrow through visionary leadership today. Among them are Annenberg Alchemy, Annenberg Learner, and Annenberg Space for Photography, Annenberg Tech, The Wallis Annenberg PetSpace, explore, GRoW @ Annenberg and the Metabolic Studio. The Foundation encourages the development of effective ways to communicate by sharing ideas and knowledge. Follow the Annenberg Foundation on social media at http://www.facebook.com/annenberg, http://www.twitter.com/annenberg_fdn and http://www.instagram.com/annenbergfdn.

About Annenberg Learner

Annenberg Learner is the education division of the Annenberg Foundation, created to advance excellent teaching in American schools. For more than three decades, Annenberg Learner has pursued this mission by funding and distributing multimedia resources, including video, print, and web materials, for the professional development of teachers (K-12 and college levels). These resources in all discipline areas help teachers to stay up-to-date in their fields and to use current learning research in their classrooms. More than 100 multimedia courses and workshops are streamed free
through http://www.learner.org. As the name Annenberg Learner implies, its focus is on the teacher, as well as the student, as a learner.